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What Happens To Your Documents After You’ve Had Them Shredded?

By Steve Schlake

The advent of low-cost office paper shredders has helped many businesses achieve at least two goals with the single device, namely, security and recycling. In these days of rampant identity theft, shredding documents that contain personal information such as credit card numbers, account details, online passwords and other confidential data is just smart business. Shredding also makes it possible to bag the results and turn them in to paper recyclers, although many municipal pickup services will not take shredded paper. The shredding protects the information, and the paper can be reused after post-processing for other consumer paper products.

There are also companies that will come to your location and shred your paper. The shredding process that these mobile units use can go through between six and eight thousand pounds of paper hourly. In addition, commercial shredders will crosscut the paper and produce small confetti-sized pieces, as opposed to the 1/8-inch strips (or wider) of some consumer-grade devices. Although it is time consuming, it is not impossible for someone to put all those strips back together again, as attentive viewers have seen on CSI and other (even documentary) forensics shows. For people who do use commercial shredding companies, the common question asked is, what happens to your documents after you have had them shredded?

How it works

The fact is, commercial shredders work very hard to earn the confidence of their customers. One feature of most leading services is real-time observation, via video cameras, of the entire shredding operation. With this capability, there is no question about what is happening to the company’s documents, where they are going, how they are being packaged and all the rest. Using a commercial service also relieves you of the responsibility of finding a paper recycling firm that will accept bagged, shredded paper, as this step is handled by the shredding company. Operationally, then, these are the steps your documents go through after you have decided they should be shredded.

Your shredded documents, of course, will end up in everything from toilet paper to cardboard to packaging materials. If you were to handle your own recycling, or hold back a few bags from the shredding company operation, you could also use the shredded paper for animal bedding, fireplace logs (with some wax and other wood pulp) or even compost. There are also ways to use various kinds of shredded or processed paper for insulation. If you are going to try any of these things, make sure you get the best possible advice and step-by-step directions.

How you can be sure

It is instructive to look at the nation’s largest population center, New York, to learn some lessons about paper shredding and how it works. There is a trade association, the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID), that is both a membership organization and industry watchdog. In addition to setting standards for equipment and operations, the NAID has a very specific, very tight set of security policies that are designed to protect confidential information. Still, some seven out of 10 New York shredding firms do not meet the industry security standards. Companies that do satisfy the requirements are rated “AAA Certified” by the NAID, and they number only 15 out of the 51 commercial shredders doing business in New York City in 2009.

A non-profit group that works to maintain professionalism and the highest level of ethical standards, NAID acts a something like an auditor, or compliance checker, for the shredding companies in the U.S. They will confirm a shredding firm’s compliance in over 20 key areas, including paper shred size, equipment safety and employees’ background checks. NAID membership, and certification, is the easiest way for you to confirm that a shredding operation is complying with industry standards, from security and safety to disposal and environmental impact. Shredding companies that do not undergo audits from third party watchdogs like NAID would prefer that you take their word for what they are doing. This, however, is not good business.

Bottom line

It’s important to know that, in trying to help by recycling, you do not unknowingly participate in a process that has an adverse affect and is, therefore, counterproductive. Neither do you want your concern for confidentiality, and the steps you are taking to safeguard sensitive data, to be short-circuited by poor work, low standards and non-compliant shredding companies and/or employees. It is vital for you to know what happens to your documents after you’ve had them shredded, so that you can be assured that no one will reconstitute your bank account numbers from your business office documents. You can be sure of the fate of your paper when you entrust it to a leading firm with a good reputation, a solid track record and a certification from NAID.

Most people who choose a new york shredding company are not aware that there are major differences between companies in terms of information security, price and customer service. At American Security Shredding, we protect businesses and their customers by providing highly secure, on-site and off-site shredding, to help them comply with HIPAA, GLB and FACTA, as well as all other federal information destruction laws.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Schlake, Steve "What Happens To Your Documents After You’ve Had Them Shredded?." What Happens To Your Documents After You’ve Had Them Shredded?. 7 Jul. 2010. 26 Sep 2014 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Schlake, S (2010, July 7). What Happens To Your Documents After You’ve Had Them Shredded?. Retrieved September 26, 2014, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Schlake, Steve "What Happens To Your Documents After You’ve Had Them Shredded?"

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