When you think of shredding, you may imagine a small paper shredder that destroys a few documents at a time. Or, if we’re thinking wishfully, you may imagine a shredding service provider like us, with a warehouse full of tonnes of shredded paperwork. What you might not imagine is some of the more strange and unusual things that shredding service suppliers destroy regularly.
At Shred Station, the material we shred most is paper. But we also shred uniforms and textiles, digital storage devices, and all sorts of other things. Our customers are always surprised to know about the strange and usual things that go through our shredders, so here is our list of the top ten things you may never have known could – and should – be shredded.
10 – Lost property
Humans can be forgetful. Thousands, if not millions, of lost and unclaimed items get left on buses, trains and at UK airports every year. Last year, Transport for London’s Lost Property Office alone found over 114,858 items, including:
- 17,947 bags
- 26,822 books, documents and cards
- 11,120 pieces of clothing
- 15,615 phones
- 1,158 pieces of jewellery
- 14,508 other valuable items, and much more.
Only 19.2% of the total items found were reclaimed.
If unclaimed, these items have to go somewhere. Sometimes, as with Transport for London for example, unclaimed items are donated to charity. Where items still have resale value, items may be sold at public auction. However, some items found may not be suitable for donation or sale or may contain personal information. When this is the case, items can be shredded, incinerated, or both.
9 – Counterfeit goods
The counterfeiting industry costs the UK economy around £9 billion each year. It also helps to fund other criminal activities such as human and drug trafficking. For this reason, when counterfeit goods are found, the most viable option is to destroy them.
One of the best ways to destroy counterfeit goods is through shredding and recycling. If recycling isn’t possible, shredding and incineration is the next best option. This minimises waste in landfill and the incineration process generates energy for the national grid. We have shredded a lot of counterfeit materials over the years, including fake trainers, handbags, perfumes and even fake cigarettes. By shredding these materials, it means that there is no chance these products can ever be recirculated.
8 – Architectural and design models
You may be aware that before large-scale and large-cost constructions like buildings or aircrafts are built, they undergo a meticulous design process. This process often involves the designer creating a small-scale model of the final design to present to the client. This process allows the designer to ensure their design is functional and is to the client’s liking before a very expensive construction process begins. Think of the famous scene in the movie Zoolander, where the movie’s intellectually hopeless protagonist sees a scale model for his new children’s centre and becomes irritated, asking “What is this? A centre for ants!?”.
Designers and architects produce many of these models. Often, they will give the models to the clients as a gift when the project is complete. However, sometimes, the client decides not to proceed with the build. Or, they may see the model and want to rethink the design. The designer may also not want to give their model away, as to avoid the risk of their original designs being stolen. To keep designs safe and to avoid holding onto a lifetime of design models, designers may choose to destroy these models through shredding.
7 – Fashion items
There are many reasons why destruction may be necessary for the fashion industry.
But why not just sell items at a discount rather than choosing destruction?
Many brands do host seasonal sales or sell last season’s products to retailers such as TK Maxx. A lot of fashion brands are now also choosing to make clothes and accessories with recyclable or sustainable fabrics. These can be great options for some brands, but for others, shredding and recycling can be a good eco-friendly alternative to landfill.
Many high-end fashion brands choose to shred their last season’s products. This is because high-end fashion houses are particularly vulnerable to counterfeiting. If fashion houses sell their products at a discount, the items could become more accessible to counterfeiters. The fashion industry contributes billions to the UK economy every year and also employs hundreds of thousands of people, so the risk of counterfeiting and its wider effects extends beyond fashion brands.
If a criminal did manage to create counterfeit designer handbags, for instance, they may sell the bags claiming they are genuine. However, the fake handbags would likely be of an inferior quality to the genuine bags. If people bought the fake bags online believing they were genuine, they may be disappointed with the quality. This could cause them to reconsider buying directly from the genuine brand in the future.
At Shred Station, we keep our fashion shredding green by separating and recycling everything we can. Nothing we shred goes to landfill, and where recycling isn’t possible, we use our shredded textiles to create Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) or Solid Recovered Fuel (SRF).
6 – Children’s toys
There are fewer sadder mental images than heaped piles of uncuddled teddy bears, their lonely, lifeless eyes staring into the distance as they travel by conveyor belt into the jaws of an industrial shredder. But, sometimes, it has to happen.
Children’s toys that are sold in the UK must be manufactured in line with very strict safety regulations. If toys do not meet these standards, they should be destroyed to avoid causing potential harm to children.
At Shred Station, we sometimes receive toys that have manufacturer defects, making the toys unsuitable, unsafe, or inappropriate for use. For example, battery-powered toys may have wiring issues and pose a fire risk. Or, soft toys may have been sewn incorrectly or dyed with chemicals too harsh for children. Luckily, these issues are almost always identified before they are made available for purchase.
Companies may also recall toys for the same reason. Fast-food giant McDonalds even once voluntarily recalled millions of Shrek drinking glasses over concerns that they could contain cadmium, a carcinogenic metal. In cases like these, toy companies will seek to destroy potentially unsafe products to avoid the risk of recirculation and causing harm to the public. One of the ways companies destroy these items is through shredding.
5 – Film and TV sets, props, and scripts
Another thing you may not know gets shredded is film or tv sets and their props.
While many props are sold or given as gifts to cast and crew members, some things end up in the shredder. These are usually items that can’t be reused or are highly specific to that set, for example, backdrops, period props and photographs. These items often aren’t donated because they are made to be used temporarily rather than being built to last. Shredding is a good option for these items because it protects them from theft. With companies like Shred Station, the materials will also avoid contributing to landfill.
We’ve also shredded confidential film and tv scripts. This gives production companies the peace of mind that scripts will not be leaked and spoilers not revealed before their films or TV shows are released.
4 – Poker chips
Casinos are built around the exchange of money, so it’s probably no surprise that forgers often try to replicate poker chips in hopes of both spending them inside casinos to win back genuine chips, or to cash them in. Casinos got wise to this, and have implemented various methods to make this process more difficult. For example, modern poker chips often have unique serial numbers, ultraviolet design elements and internal microchips containing the chip’s value and serial number data. Casinos will also frequently change the design of their chips to minimise the risk of replication, and chips will also usually have an expiration date.
Casinos shred their old chips to avoid the risk of them being used for fraudulent activity. This not only protects the casino, but it could also protect their customers who may otherwise be duped into buying or gambling for expired chips from fraudsters.
3 – Adult Toys
Yes. You read that correctly. Adult toys, or, more specifically, faulty or unsafe adult toys, are another thing we’ve had the opportunity to destroy. As you can imagine, jobs like these are quite the sight to see in our destruction facility!
One reason why adult toy retailers have chosen to destroy some of their product ranges and PVC garments is the presence of phthalates.
Manufacturers use phthalates to make plastic and rubber products softer, more flexible and more durable. Unfortunately, exposure to phthalates can cause serious harm to the human body. Exposure to phthalates has been linked to fertility issues, changes in thyroid and other hormone production, reduced testosterone, cancers, respiratory problems and organ toxicity. Pregnant women who have had exposure to phthalates also have a higher chance of giving birth to children with neurodevelopmental effects such as depression, a lower IQ and even autism.
In July 2019, the UK government prohibited the sale of products containing four types of phthalates. For the adult toy industry, this meant destruction was necessary for many products.
2 – Weaponry
As is the case with other types of evidence, weaponry has to be destroyed when no longer needed. This is because weaponry getting into the wrong hands has enormous safety risks.
We’ve destroyed all kinds of weaponry, including firearms, knives, rubber bullets, batons, knuckle dusters, and even martial arts weapons such as death stars. While it is horrible to imagine that these weapons were once carried or even used by criminals in the UK, it is very satisfying to shred items like these with the knowledge that they can never be used again.
1 – Money
There are some strange laws in the UK regarding the destruction of currency. It is illegal to deface currency and it is also illegal to destroy a coin minted after 1969 unless granted a licence to do so by Her Majesty’s Treasury. In contrast, it is not illegal to destroy a banknote.
There are, however, many reasons the government may ask a shredding company to destroy money. When new notes or coins are introduced, for instance, the polymer notes we now see in the UK, old notes are taken in by the bank. These old notes need to be destroyed to avoid them being misused. The same goes for old coins such as the round £1 coin that was in circulation until 2017.
Counterfeit notes should also be destroyed to avoid recirculation.
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