Your Options for Sensitive Document Disposal

By - 2017-03-27

Every business has documents that they will eventually need to dispose of, but some papers are easier to eliminate than others. Documentation containing details like credit cards, social security numbers, addresses, banking or medical information, and so on, can all compromise the privacy of customers and clients if not properly handled. Simply tossing out these pages is unacceptable since privacy standards dictate that such items are only thrown away once they have been rendered fully unsalvageable and unreadable. Several options for this task exist and the one that works best for you will likely depend on the size and frequency of your document disposals.


Fire is the eternal cleanser and can be used to thoroughly eliminate sensitive documents and leave only ash behind. Since most people don't have immediate access to an incinerator or a professional burn cage, disposal-by-fire will likely require a few extra steps. Make a fire pit outdoors with proper ventilation and use torn or cut up pieces of document as kindling. Take care when adding pages to ensure nothing escapes and to keep the fire stoked and stable. Incineration is dramatic on TV but it takes more time than you think to do the job thoroughly. As with any fire, maintain proper ventilation and keep it away from things like shrubbery or other nearby flammable objects. Once the fire has burned out, carefully check the ashes to ensure no fragments remain. If some do, consider burning them gain or using another method of disposal depending on how much is left. Bear in mind that most cities and towns have laws against outdoor burning, so check to make sure what the rules are in your area and if a permit will be required.


This method can be time consuming so it's best done if you only have a small number of documents to dispose of. The reason cutting can take so long is that you must first eliminate the most sensitive parts, like credit card numbers, using a hole punch or other method before the scissors can come out. Going to town on a page with some shears leaves more recoverable material behind than an office paper shredder, so the additional steps will be needed to keep fragments from compromising customer privacy.


Naturally, paper shredders are excellent at disposing of documents since this is literally what they are designed for. An office shredder is a good disposal option for small to moderate levels of use, depending on your business in question. Make sure to get a high quality shredder and, if possible, give one a test shred before buying in order to make sure sensitive information can't be gleaned from the fragments. For larger shredding needs or when you want that extra dose of security, consider third party shredding services like Shred-It. These professional businesses can securely process and destroy large volumes of documentation while maintaining top-level security over the entire process so you can be assured of the integrity of the system.

Digital Destruction

Today's digital age means more documents are being stored on computers, which brings their own set of concerns when it comes to secure destruction. When it comes time to dispose of an old computer, deleting files and wiping the harddrive is no longer enough to securely eliminate the risk of a privacy breach. Fortunately, this is one scenario where the most primitive method is one of the most effective. Remove the harddrive from your computer, get a toolbox, and go to town on it. Whether your method of choice is a hammer, power drill, blowtorch, socket wrench, or crowbar, the goal should be the thorough destruction of the harddrive. Be sure to wear protective coverings to keep yourself safe from debris!

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