In consumer contexts, document shredders are used to destroy outdated or otherwise unneeded documents that contain sensitive personal information like receipts, bills and many other documents that may contain information that could compromise an individual’s privacy if disposed of without shredding. In commercial contexts, document shredders are an essential part of protecting customer privacy, trade secrets and many other business functions that require secure destruction of sensitive paper documents.
Hospitals, banks and government agencies rely heavily on machines and services to prevent accidental disclosure of confidential information. The range of different paper shredder configurations begins with simple, waste bin-sized consumer strip-cut shredders and ends with industrial-scale multi-axis paper shredders used by companies that specialize in document shredding for other companies.
These shredders can often shred thousands of pounds of paper per hour. Some document shredding services even offer mobile shredding services, which can involve a shredding machine installed in the back of a truck that travels to businesses and collects material to be shredded.
Paper shredders are classified according to the type of end-product they create. Strip-cut shredders produce long strips the same length as the paper being shredded. While common in homes and small businesses, these shredders are the least secure and produce the largest volume of waste. Cross-cut shredders use two rotating drums to create smaller rectangle or parallelogram shaped pieces, while particle-cut shredders create tiny square or circular pieces.
Granulators and disintegrators produce even smaller pieces, cutting paper randomly until it is small enough to pass through a mesh. Hammermills pass paper through a screen, shredding it in the process. Lastly, pierce and tear shredders do as their name suggests; they pierce and tear until the paper is shredded. Paper shredding is an all around excellent means of secure document disposal.
It is effective, and the byproducts are almost always completely recyclable. Because most paper recycling processes involve a pulping process, the small size of the shredded particles does not preclude recycling.
Paper shredding has become so important to industry and commerce in the United States that federal standards have been developed to regulate the process by which important documents are disposed of in certain contexts. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Gramm-Leach-Billey Act (GLB), and the Fair and Accurate Credit Transaction Act (FACTA) are just a few examples of these regulations.