How Document Shredding and Recycling Can Have a Positive Impact on the Environment



These days it is increasingly important for companies to be able to demonstrate that they are doing everything in their power to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner. Arranging for documents to be shredded can actually improve your ethical credentials by combining respect for individual privacy with respect for the environment.

Understanding the full document-shredding process

The basic principle of document-shredding is simple enough. Paper is cut into tiny pieces which are too small for anyone to be able to figure out their original order (even with the help of a computer). Once the documents have been shredded, reputable document shredding companies will then arrange for them to be moved on to serve an environmentally-friendly purpose, which, in many cases is recycling.

Understanding the paper recycling process

When the paper arrives at the recycling plant, it is sorted into different types. Recycling plants are quite familiar with shredded paper and the small pieces are not a problem at all. Once the paper has been separated, it is then washed and this is where it can be very useful if the paper has already been shredded. If you think about washing a load of laundry, it is generally much easier and quicker to wash smaller, lighter, items such as socks, than it is to wash larger, heavier items such as duvets. The same principle applies to washing paper. Washing the paper removes all the ink from it (along with standard office products such as staples and glue) and so eliminates the last traces of what was originally on the document, leaving its remains ready to start a new life.

Recycled paper not only saves trees, it saves water, energy and landfill waste.

Alternative ways of sustainable disposal

The three fundamentals of environmental sustainability are: reduce, reuse, recycle and there are lots and lots of ways in which shredded paper can be reused as an alternative to recycling (or indeed prior to recycling). If you can’t make use of it yourself (e.g. for packaging), you could offer to give it away to other people.

Animal shelters could use it for bedding or cat litter

Gardeners could use it for all kinds of purposes including compost

Crafters of all ages can find all sorts of creative uses for it, for example paper mache

You may wish to consider having all your documents shredded

Many companies have traditionally operated on the basis that unless they could be absolutely sure that it was safe to get rid of something, it was probably best to keep it “just in case”. GDPR, however, has flipped that idea around and now the onus is on companies to delete data securely, unless they have a specific reason to keep it. Putting this fact together with the fact that staff do not necessarily like to make decisions about what to put in confidential waste and what just to recycle (and they do not necessarily get these decisions correct), the most pragmatic approach, in a post-GDPR world, may be to tell staff to treat all documents as confidential and arrange to have them shredded.

For more information on document shredding or secure document storage, please contact RADS Storage.