Five information destruction mistakes to avoid.

Destroying personal or confidential information can be arduous work, especially if you have quite a lot to get rid of. As well as considering what to do with the destroyed end product, you must also consider safety, the environment, and your legal responsibilities if you destroy commercial waste.

Here are five information destruction mistakes you should avoid when destroying your confidential information.

Images that show data destruction mistakes: using a small office shredder, burning, putting hard drives in water and putting confidential materials into general waste.

1) Using a standard home or office shredder

Using a standard home or office shredder can be dangerous for people and even pets. They are also highly time-consuming and very costly. The machines also require regular maintenance, adding even further costs. To top it all off, when you destroy papers with a standard shredder, you’re still left with a pile of paper fragments that you must find a way to dispose of to avoid the risk of reassembly.

Another downside of using a standard home or office shredder is that you have no proof of destruction. This is particularly important to have if you’re destroying commercial documents.

2) Burning or bleaching your old documents

There are all sorts of suggestions online regarding the destruction of your information. This includes everything from burning old documents to bleaching them. Neither of these potentially dangerous processes is environmentally friendly and both eliminate the wonderful possibility of your documents being recycled. As well as the environmental damage, neither method is efficient – especially the bleaching! Both also leave you with an end waste product that you need to send to landfill via your general waste. Not ideal!

Shredding your documents is a much better alternative. It’s also much more environmentally friendly. For small quantities, you could use a tracked postal shredding service for as little as £10 including postage! For larger quantities, you should use a fully accredited and professional shredding service supplier. At Shred Station, we deliver all services CarbonNeutral® certified. We also have a strict Zero to Landfill policy and recycle 100% of the paper we shred at UK mills.

3) Destroying hard drives and media devices yourself

There are all sorts of strange ways we have heard of people trying to destroy their hard drives. People try to destroy their hard drives with fire, hammers, chainsaws and even in the microwave! As well as being extremely dangerous, these methods are also not effective or efficient ways to erase data on hard drives and digital media devices. For magnetic media, the best options are degaussing, shredding, or a combination of both. For non-magnetic media, shredding is the best option.

Unfortunately, your standard home or office shredder likely cannot destroy a hard drive. However, hope is not lost. Many reputable companies can offer hard drive shredding and degaussing as a service, and there are even fully tracked postal shredding services for hard drives. These can cost as little as a few pounds per hard drive depending on the service and quantity you have.

4) Not getting proof of waste transfer or destruction

If you give your information to another party to destroy, get a Waste Transfer Note at the point of handover. This can be via email or a physical note. Whatever type of waste you hand over, the party destroying it should detail the quantity of the waste and the type of waste it is.

Suppose you do not obtain a Waste Transfer Note and your waste ends up fly-tipped, leaked or used maliciously. In that case, you could be blamed for not taking adequate measures to ensure the party destroying your waste is a reputable waste manager with a waste carrier’s licence. You should keep a copy of all Waste Transfer Notes for two years.

You should also seek to receive a Certificate of Destruction once the destruction is complete. This gives you not only peace of mind but also proof of GDPR compliance if you are destroying business materials. This too can be via email or as a physical document. As an example, if you have an on-site shredding service for confidential paperwork, your Certificate of Destruction should be supplied straight away because the waste is being destroyed straight away. If you had an off-site shredding service, however, this may take a few additional days due to the extra admin involved. This is because the materials have to be transported back to a secure shredding facility, unloaded, checked in, destroyed, marked as complete on the shredding company’s internal systems, and then a Certificate of Destruction sent across.

5) Putting business waste in domestic bins.

In the UK, this is a big no-no. As per Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, businesses have something called a Duty of Care for all waste produced. That includes commercial waste generated by remote employees. Even if you think it would be fine for a few folders of commercial paperwork to go in your remote employee’s domestic bin, you would be at risk of fines. For more serious breaches of your company’s waste Duty of Care, you could even face a custodial sentence.

If your remote employees need to securely dispose of business materials, the best, safest and only real legal option is to have it collected or sent to a professional waste management company. If the documents are confidential, there are companies where your remote workers can ship their confidential documents via tracked postage or for larger quantities can organise a shredding service.

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