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Why Shredding Your Confidential Documents is Better Than Burning Them

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Problems with Burning Documents

Green road sign on wooded posts with white text reading Good Choice (arrow to left) and Bad Choice (arrow to right)There’s a reason that shredding is the most recommended and popular way to destroy your confidential documents in order to render them unreadable and impossible to reconstruct. But maybe you’ve wondered why businesses don’t choose to just burn them. You would think it would be cheaper, easier and just as productive, right? Well sadly, it’s not true. On the classic 1960’s TV show, Dragnet, Sgt. Joe Friday used to say, “All we want are the facts, ma’am.” So that’s what we’re going to share with you: just the facts.

Why Burning Documents Is a Bad Idea

It’s Not Cheaper

In fact, it could end up being the most expensive mistake you’ve ever made. If every single page doesn’t make it to the fire, if any part of any page doesn’t completely disintegrate in the fire or floats away, then any of those pieces of paper becomes a data breach risk, which could result in fines, lawsuits, and a destroyed company reputation.

Stacks of Paper Don’t Fully Burn

Unless you intend to burn one page at a time, several pages stacked together can block air flow and keep pages from burning. The result is a pile of ashes and unburned documents that still contain information that can be seen and stolen.

It’s Possible to Recover Burnt Documents

An amateur wouldn’t waste their time trying to decipher what’s on a burnt document because it’s too hard to read and they have no reason to spend the time doing so. But someone with the incentive of benefiting from stolen information may be able to find a way. There are many methods used in labs to reconstruct burnt documents, including Contact Process, Filter Photography, Infrared Photography, Reflective, Alcohol-Glycerin Immersion, and Silver Nitrate methods. It’s all too possible to retrieve information that is your responsibility to protect.

You Won’t Get Proof of Compliance

When you burn your documents instead of having them destroyed by a reputable shredding company, you don’t get the all-important Certificate of Destruction to keep in your records. When the auditor shows up, you will want that proof that you are in compliance with state and federal data privacy laws that require proper destruction of Personally Identifiable information (PII) and Protected Health Information (PHI).

Burning Documents Harms the Environment

Documents and files with paperclips, rubber bands, staples, and other fasteners can easily be shredded by a professional shredding company, but burning them poses an immediate risk to the health of humans and a longer-term risk to the environment due to the chemicals contained in the paper and accompanying materials.

Burning paper also contributes to global warming by emitting carbon dioxide, just like fossil fuels do. Paper burns at about 420 degrees Fahrenheit, the point at which the cellulose in paper breaks down into gases including carbon dioxide and other hydrocarbons that produce harmful fumes.

Your Surroundings Could Ignite in a Blaze

Whether you burn documents near a building or in the open, there’s always a risk of a fire getting out of control. In June 2022, it is believed that an illegal fire may have sparked the Wharton State Forest fire that consumed 13,500 acres, forced more than 50 campers to flee, threatened farmland and sent unhealthy smoke towards New Jersey shore towns. Should you cause a similar incident, you could be charged and your company’s reputation would be destroyed. Sadly, 85% of wildland fires in the US are caused by humans, including people burning debris.

Shredded Paper Can Be Recycled

When paper is recycled, it is turned into new usable products and sent back to the store shelves at a significant savings to our resources and environment. 65.7% of paper consumed in the US was recycled in 2020. This is a significant number given that one ton of recycled office paper saves 17 trees, 650 kWh of energy, 9 barrels of oil, 2205 pounds of greenhouse gases from being released, 7,000 gallons of water, and 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space that can be used for unrecyclable and biodegradable garbage.

Just the Facts

Partnering with a professional shredding company is the safest, healthiest, and most compliant means of destroying your confidential information. In the long run, you will be protecting the earth, your staff, your customers, and your company.

Wiggins Shredding provides clients in Pennsylvania and the Tri-State area of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey with secure, compliant shredding and destruction services. We make shredding your confidential documents easy and affordable so you don’t have to take risks, and provide you with a Certificate of Destruction as proof of your compliance with data privacy laws.

To set up routine shredding or inquire about one-time purge shredding, call us at 610-692-TEAR(8327) or complete the form on this page. Our friendly experts are standing by to help!

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