Identity theft affects everyone: both businesses and individuals. So now more than ever, it is important to shred all your documents before they are disposed of to prevent any of your private information from getting into the wrong hands. Having as much information as possible will help you choose the best and most secure shredding service for you.

What’s the Right Document Shredding Company for You?

First, you need to know what shredding service you need. There are two basic services: one-time or scheduled shredding services. One-time shredding is just what it implies; it is for a single or infrequent document shredding need. If you are looking for a one-time shredding service, the shredding companies you are going to be calling are going to want to know how much you have to shred. It is easier than you think to calculate. Shredding companies will put your documents into shredding bins. For lack of a better description, they are large garbage pails on wheels with a security top. They come in two sizes: a 95-gallon or 65-gallon shredding bin. Make sure you ask the shredding company what size they use. The 95-gallon shredding bin holds about 300 pounds of paper and the 65-gallon shredding bin holds about 200 pounds of paper.

Documents in Boxes

If your documents are in boxes, it would be good to know the size of the boxes so the shredding company can calculate the number of bins. There are two basic size boxes for files: the small file box or the legal file box. The small file box holds about 30 pounds of paper and measures 15” in length, 12” in width, and 10 ½ “ in height. So, 10 full small file boxes fit into a 95-gallon shredding bin and 6 or 7 fit into a 65-gallon shredding bin. The legal file box holds about 60 pounds of paper and it measures 24” in length, 15” in width, and 10 ½ “in height. That means 5 full legal file boxes fit into a 95-gallon shredding bin and 3 fit into a 65-gallon shredding bin.

Documents in Garbage Bags

If your documents are in garbage bags, you need to know the size of the bags in gallons and then how full are they. Most people only fill garbage bags halfway because they do get heavy. The shredding company will then be able to estimate the number of bins based on the information you provide.

Document in File Cabinets

If your documents are in file cabinets then just count the number of full file drawers that need to be shredded. About 4 full file drawers will fit into a 95-gallon shredding bin and about 2 ½ full file drawers will fit into a 65-gallon shredding bin. The number of bins may vary because file cabinets drawers vary in width from 30’ to 48”, but the majority of file draws are 36”.

Pricing for One-time Shredding

Make sure you are getting a price per shredding bin. The amount of paper in every box, garbage bag, or file drawer may vary, so if you get a price per box, garbage bag, or file drawer and they are not full, you are paying for shredding services you are not getting. If you are being charged per bin, the documents are emptied into the bin and you are only paying for the number of bins that are shredded. Make sure you ask if there are any additional fees, such as fuel surcharges, minimum charges, or stair charges if there is no elevator.

Scheduled Shredding

When you need to shred documents on a regular basis, then you should consider scheduled shredding services. Scheduled shredding is typically more geared toward businesses. The shredding service will provide you with shredding containers that can be placed in convenient locations throughout your office. The reason for this is so it is convenient for your staff to dispose of documents directly into the shredding containers instead of just throwing them away in a trash can. Shredding containers should be no more than 50 feet away from any employee. Any further away and employees tend not to use them. The shredding containers should be provided free of charge, and the shredding company should be able to provide any quantity you need.

Then the shredding company will come to your office on regular intervals, such as weekly, every other week, every four weeks, or monthly. If you need shredding regularly but not that frequently, you may be able to have on-call shredding, which means you call the shredding company when your shredding containers are full. There may be some minimum frequency that may apply such as at least one service per quarter. Don’t be afraid to tell the shredding services what you need. Many shredding companies are very accommodating. Make sure the shredding service will allow you to change your schedule if your needs change. Your volume of paper may go up or down, and they should be able to accommodate your changing needs.

It is important to remember that shredding is about information security and your staff must be trained to understand how important it is. A document shredding program is more successful if it is consistent, so it is better if your employees know that documents are shredded on a set schedule. Don’t let documents sit in shredding containers for an undetermined amount of time.

Many shredding companies require you to sign a contract. Make sure you are not locked in for a long period of time. You should be able to limit the contract period to one year. If hiring a scheduled shredding service is new for you, look for a company that will allow you to cancel the contract for any reason in the first 60-90 days. Excellent service should keep you using the same shredding company, not a contract term. Pricing for scheduled shredding services varies with every company. Usually, you will be charged a rate per shredding container. If you require five or more shredding containers, you may want to ask for a price per shredding bin. If you are putting many shredding containers throughout your office, the usage will probably vary and some containers may not be full. If the shredding containers are emptied into the shredding bins and you only pay for the bins being shredded, then you are not paying for shredding you are not getting. But, never sacrifice secure consistent shredding for a couple of dollars. Remember that consistency is always better for information security. You are protecting the information of your business, your clients, and your employees: that is what is paramount here. By doing this, you are also on your way to being compliant with federal and state privacy laws.

On-Site Versus Off-Site Shredding

Onsite document shredding is when the shredding service sends a truck to you to shred your documents. When the shredding truck arrives, your documents are placed into a shredding bin. The bin should be locked and then moved to the shredding truck. The bin is then lifted into the truck by a hydraulic system and emptied into the truck where your documents are shredded. Make sure the shredding service you choose has a truck that is equipped with a camera system that allows you to see your documents being shredded if you choose.
Off-site document shredding, or sometimes referred to as plant-based shredding, is when the shredding company sends a non-shredding truck to your location, and similar to on-site shredding, your documents are placed into a shredding bin. It should then be locked, and the bin is then taken and loaded onto the truck. The difference is that your documents will not be shredded until they return back to their facility. Many people are not comfortable with offsite because the documents leave your location unshredded. Some business have no choice but to use offsite shredding, such as a hospitals, because they can’t tie up their loading dock with an onsite shredding truck.

Here are some critical questions to ask the shredding company:

1. Are there locks on all doors of the truck and are they locked?
2. How are the bins protected in the truck so they don’t move around?
3. Please explain the security of my documents when you leave the truck to pick up other documents.
4. Are documents left on a truck overnight?
5. How long does it take to shred my documents after they arrive back at your facility?
6. Does your facility have a security system?
7. Does your facility have a video surveillance system, and are my documents under constant video surveillance wherever they are in your facility?
8. Are all of your employees background checked, drug tested, and have they signed confidentiality agreements?

Hiring a NAID AAA Certified company means they have all of the above and more. Remember that with off-site shredding there is more opportunity for a security breach, so choosing the right company is very important. Make sure you understand the risks, and it all comes down to your comfort level with the shredding company you choose.

Shredding at Retail Office Supply Stores or Mailbox Stores

You need to be very aware that in most cases they don’t shred your documents there. They have a bin that your documents are placed into, and they may sit there for some time until an outside vendor comes to either shred the documents of remove the bin to shred them elsewhere. The reason most people choose this is because it is very economical for small amounts of paper. They charge somewhere around $1.00 per pound. If you choose this method to have your documents shredded, make sure you know who their shredding vendor is, and it would be preferable that they are AAA Certified by NAID.

HIPAA Shredding

If you are a healthcare provider all of the above is important when you choose a shredding service, but you have one more very important thing that needs to be done before you hire a shredding company: the Business Associate Agreement. A Business Associate Agreement, also referred to as BAA, is a signed agreement between you and your paper shredding vendor that requires a contractual obligation of your shredding vendor to appropriately safeguard protected health information (PHI). If you hire a shredding services without one, you are subject to significant fines. All reputable shredding companies will be able to supply you with one. Consider having your attorney look it over since the HIPAA rules require the BAA have certain requirements and language.

Narrowing Your Shredding Options

Now that you know what shredding service you are looking for, it is time to look for a company to provide the shredding service. Some information on privacy laws may help here. All privacy laws in some fashion require that you know who you are turning your documents over to for secure shredding. You have two choices:

1. Vette the vendor yourself, which can be time consuming.
2. Hire a certified shredding company this is certified by a nationally recognized trade organization.

There is only one nationally recognized trade organization that also helps federal and state governments write privacy laws: NAID, the National Association of information Destruction. http://www.naidonline.org/. NAID has a certification process that requires shredding companies to meet very strict standards that are verified through scheduled and surprise audits.

We hope the information we provided has been helpful. If you have more questions or if we can be of any help, feel free to call us at (860) 261-9595.