How do shredding companies work?

If you’re considering the switch from in-house shredding to using a shredding service provider, you may have asked yourself: “How do shredding companies work?”.

Understanding different services, different security standards, different accreditations and different environmental impacts may be overwhelming to those new to the idea of shredding services. If you’ve done a bit of research and still aren’t sure how shredding companies work, we can help.

Do I need to do anything before a shredding service?

Before your shredding service, you’ll need to put your paperwork into boxes or bags. This is to make sure paper doesn’t get blown away in the short journey from your door to the shredding vehicle. If you don’t have boxes or bags, most shredding companies can post you some heavy-duty bags with ties. Or, if you need regular shredding services, shredding companies like Shred Station will be able to provide lockable bins or cabinets to store your materials before destruction.

Another thing you may have to consider is the condition of your paperwork. Some shredding companies may request you remove any staples, paper clips, plastic wallets or folders. Others may accept staples but will issue a contamination fee.

At Shred Station, our industrial shredders can handle these materials with ease, so there is no need to spend time picking out staples or removing papers from lever-arch files. We do not charge contamination fees for these items.

Shredding services

There are a few different shredding services to consider. These can all be performed on-site for you to witness at your home or business. Alternatively, the destruction can take place off-site at a secure destruction facility.

On-site services

On-site shredding is where the shredding company will come to your premises and shred your confidential materials outside on a secure shredding vehicle. This allows you to witness the destruction. You will also receive a Waste Transfer Note and Certificate of Destruction immediately.

Off-site services

Off-site shredding is where the shredding company will come to your premises and transport your materials to their nearest secure destruction facility. You will not be able to witness the shredding, but shredding vehicles and destruction centres are highly secure so your data will be safe. You will still also receive a Waste Transfer Note, and a Certificate of Destruction will be sent once your documents are shredded.

Degaussing and shredding

For magnetic media such as hard drives, you may want a degaussing service before shredding takes place. This is where a powerful degausser demagnetises the material. We explain how degaussing works here.


Granulation is a high-security shredding process. With granulation, your materials – paper or otherwise – can be shredded into tiny 2mm fragments. Most documents do not require this level of destruction. For things like Top Secret materials or documents relating to national security, however, it is advised.

Shred Station launched the UK’s first on-site granulation service this year, so now granulation services are available both on and off-site.

Shredding services for non-paper materials

Some shredding companies will only destroy paperwork, but others can destroy pretty much anything.

Our shredding services can be used for paper, textiles, hard drives, x-rays, products, microfiche and much more. If you’re unsure whether we can shred your materials, feel free to get in touch and we can advise.

Security processes

If you’re already shredding your paperwork or looking into shredding services, you probably already know why shredding is important. But there is a big difference in security when shredding in-house or using a shredding service provider. Here are some of those differences.

How are the documents kept safe when they no longer need to be retained and are awaiting destruction?

When you’ve decided you no longer want to keep confidential documents or documents that contain confidential information, where do you put them? In a cupboard somewhere? In a pile on your desk? Worst of all, in a general waste or recycling bin? When you get regular shredding services, the shredding service provider will be able to provide you with a lockable bin or cabinet to keep your confidential materials safe even before destruction.

What happens during the shredding process?

When you shred using a small home or office shredder, your documents may be shredded into long strips. These strips are easy to reassemble. If you have invested in a higher-end of the range shredder, your documents may be cross-cut. Professional shredding companies will use multi-cut shredders instead, something only found in top-of-the-range industrial shredding equipment.

There is also the safety risk. Shredding blades are incredibly sharp, and if you or your company’s employees aren’t safety trained, accidents can and do happen. Passing this concern on to a shredding service provider with strict health and safety measures in place will take the responsibility from you and will keep you and your employees safe.

Who does the shredding?

Shredding service providers should use security-vetted employees to collect and destroy your confidential materials. At Shred Station, all of our employees are security-vetted to BS7858 standards as a minimum, whether that’s a shredding operative or a member of our customer service team. When you use a reputable shredding service, your data is in safe hands.

Where does paper end up once shredded?

When your materials are shredded, what will you do with them? Put them outside in a general waste or recycling bin where they are ready for the taking? Fraudsters with extensive practice in document reassembly would have a field day! Technology even exists now where fraudsters can take photographs of shredding fragments and a computer programme will be able to put them all back together digitally. A shredding service provider will use machinery to mix your materials with millions of other paper fragments. This is known as commingling. The chance of someone even finding two fragments of one of your documents in a shredding depot or shredding truck full of commingled paper is pretty much impossible.

Bales of Shredded Paper

Audit trail and proof of destruction.

If you’re entrusting your personal documents to a shredding service provider, it’s understandable that you want proof that your materials have been destroyed. Shredding companies will provide a Waste Transfer Note as evidence of collection. You’ll also receive a Certificate of Destruction, giving you written proof of destruction. All accountability is with the shredding service provider. Plus, you’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that your data is in safe hands.

If you’re shredding business documents, the UK GDPR requires you to have an audit trail for every single document that runs through your business. You need to know when documents were created, who had access, and when they were destroyed. Your Waste Transfer Note and Certificate of Destruction give all the proof of destruction you require for your audit trail.

Accreditations to look out for

It’s natural to want to know the credentials of a shredding service provider when you’re trusting them with your confidential information. Some crucial accreditations to look out for when you use a shredding service provider are:

  • ISO 9001 incorporating EN15713.
  • ISO 14001 incorporating EN15713.
  • PCI DSS Level 1 Service Provider.
  • Cyber Essentials.
  • SafeContractor and SafePQQ.
  • Memberships with the BSIA and UKSSA.

What are the environmental impacts of shredding?

Shredding is one of the more environmentally friendly ways of destroying your confidential documents, especially when you use an environmentally friendly shredding service provider.

As an absolute minimum, shredding service providers should have a zero-to-landfill policy and commitments to recycling 100% of the paper they shred.

Environmentally conscious shredding companies will go a lot further.

For example, at Shred Station, we do all of the above plus much more. We have a solar-powered head office, a Shred a Tonne – Plant a Tree scheme, and operate an eco-friendly, ultra-low emission fleet.

Shred Station is also CarbonNeutral® certified and has been since 2019. By the time the UK’s net-zero by 2050 goal comes around, we’ll have been CarbonNeutral for 31 years!

Sign up for our newsletter here to receive alerts about new blog articles, data protection advice, and Shred Station news.