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How secure is shredding & recycling paper?

Shredding paper is the most secure and sustainable way to dispose of documents and paperwork. Read on to find our PDF download and video.

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Shredding is the most secure and convenient way to dispose of documents and files and there are different levels of shredder security determined by the size and shape of the shreds they produce.
Strip-cut shredding is the least secure as rotating knives cut strips as long as the original sheet of paper. Strip cuts are the easiest to reconstruct by a determined and patient investigator as the product (the destroyed information) is the least randomised compared to cross cut shredding. Cross cut shredders use two contra-rotating drums to cut paper. The second drum cuts across the strips coming out of the primary drum.
The level of security required when disposing of confidential papers should be determined by the industry sector guidelines or corporate policies. There are numerous standards to measure the security levels of paper shredding.

In the UK there are two scales to measure the level of security shredding.

1. DIN 66399. uses "P" scales to determine the level of shredding:
Level P-1 : 12mm wide strips of any length
Level P-7 : 5mm sq particles.
P-7 is a powder achieved by disintegration. It is specified for the destruction of electronic media including CDs, DVDs and hard drives as well as other product destruction including credit cards and uniforms among other products.
The UK's CPNI (Centre for Protection National Infrastructure) govern the destruction of government information and it specifies security shredding up to level P-4 (160mm sq particles).
2. The other widely used standard is EN15713 which is adopted by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA).
The lowest shred level is level 1 with a permitted shred size under is 5000sq mm with level 6 having a maximum permitted shred size of 320mm sq.
The highest security level for paper shredding specified in EN15713 is level 6, and that is the equivalent to DIN 663399 level P-3.
Can shredded documents be un-shredded?
Documents destroyed to lower security levels, such as with an office shredder, may technically be reconstructed. At higher levels, it is practically impossible. A shred truck remains locked until full at which point it has over a 10 billion pieces of randomly cut fragments which are all mixed together. The paper is baled, pulped and recycled within hours or days.
In summary the answer to the question is... shredding paper is the safest way to dispose of confidential papers. The level of security required is determined by industry sector guidance. The measure of security or shred size is governed by two principle standards DN66399 and EN15713.
This article has answered the question: How secure is shredding paper? in a technical manner relying on cutting specification of the paper shredder used.
If considering a shredding service it is vital to consider how secure the chain of custody is in the destruction process - for example:
  • Are the sensitive documents secured prior to shredding - are they stored in locked shredding containers?
  • If the documents are shredded off-site can they be viewed by unauthorised persons prior to shredding?
  • Who handles the confidential waste? Are these personnel security vetted?

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