April 07, 2022

Why Recycling Alone May Not Protect Your Private Information

Keeping private information safe has never been more critical for businesses. Protecting confidential data not only reduces companies’ chances of a data breach but can also help them build and maintain trust with their employees and customers.

Some organizations choose to dispose of confidential documents using traditional blue recycling bins. While these bins may be considered an environmentally friendly disposal option, they also can leave confidential information exposed and at risk, creating a hotbed of opportunity for crime. Improper document management and disposal may leave information exposed, which can be a catalyst for the 4.8 million annual identity theft and fraud complaints reported by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

To better understand these risks, it’s important to understand the lifecycle of disposed documents through a traditional “blue bin” and how it compares to the secure document shredding and recycling process with Shred-it.

Vulnerabilities of Traditional Document Disposal

Nearly every point in the traditional “blue bin” process carries the potential risk of exposing confidential information. The following highlights five areas where vulnerabilities are present.

  1. Recycling Bins: Once employees finish using confidential documents, they drop them in their nearest blue recycling bin. This potentially exposes the documents’ contents to everyone in the office, including guests and others that normally wouldn’t have access to sensitive information.
  2. Trash Bags: Once collected, the documents are collected in large plastic bags or bins, which again can potentially expose confidential information to any passersby throughout an office building. Many businesses may not understand that leaving these items exposed can present a potential risk. The reality, however, is that in many cases employee error and malicious insiders present a threat. Confidential information is not safe if any person, inside or outside an organization, can access it without permission.
  3. Outdoor Recycling Bins: Next, janitorial staff transfer disposed documents to outdoor recycling bins for pick up, potentially giving people outside the building access to confidential information. These outdoor bins are often not locked nor monitored closely, giving criminals an easy way to access disposed documents.
  4. Trucks: Recycling professionals then load the intact documents onto a truck for transportation to the sorting facility. This provides an opportunity for downstream handlers, such as recycling workers, truck drivers, and others to access confidential information.
  5. Sorting Facility: Finally, the documents are delivered to the sorting facility where workers and volunteers sort and prepare them for recycling. These employees and volunteers can easily read, share, and steal any sensitive information contained in the documents.

Eventually, the facility recycles these documents, but businesses have no written documentation of when and where their secure documents were destroyed. While the “blue bin” process helps to protect the environment, it repeatedly exposes confidential information, risking a data breach. These five points of vulnerability highlight the importance of document shredding and establishing proper document destruction procedures.

Secure Disposal and Recycling of Sensitive Information Is Possible

We designed Shred-it's secure document shredding process with the five points of vulnerability in mind to help ensure confidential information stays safe from the moment a document is first thrown away to the moment it is recycled. Our process includes three simple steps:

  1. Employees drop their confidential documents in a secure Shred-it console. Unlike the traditional recycling disposal process where any person in the office could view and take documents thrown away in blue bins, Shred-it consoles are locked and have a beveled slot to help prevent access to disposed documents.
  2. Our team of professionals empties the consoles and shreds all documents. The purpose of document shredding is to help protect against unauthorized access to protected information. In a traditional recycling disposal process, bad actors can steal sensitive documents even if they have been manually torn, but shredding can help render secure documents nearly unreadable. Shred-it securely destroys documents using the latest in NAID AAA-certified, cross-cut technology.
  3. Finally, our team delivers the shredded confidential documents to a paper mill for recycling. Our customers get the recycling benefits of the “blue bin” without having to sacrifice information security. For every two full consoles worth of paper shredded and recycled, the equivalent of one tree is saved.

Protect your Data with Shred-it

Confidential document disposal is not simply about removing unneeded paper waste—it is also about protecting your relationship with your customers, employees, partners, and the community. Proper document shredding policies and procedures protect your organization from the many risks of traditional document disposal.

We follow a six-step security protocol to help keep confidential information safe every step of the way. We require a barcode scan at every touchpoint to track our chain of custody, and Shred-it employees have Certified Information Security Professional designations, which means they undergo rigorous training to learn how to protect confidential information. Our fleets are GPS-tracked so we know where your documents are until their destruction. We also lock our containers and trucks to keep information safe in transit, and our secure, monitored facilities help protect your information before it's destroyed. When the process is finished, we provide customers a Certificate of Destruction to guarantee that we destroyed and recycled your documents.

With Shred-it, you can feel confident that your information is safe at every step of the process and that you are doing your part to help protect the environment. Globally in 2021, we securely shredded and recycled 1.1 billion pounds of paper. This is equal to 9 million trees saved and 1.65M cubic yards of landfill space saved.

Learn more about our secure document disposal process and secure document shredding options to meet your needs, whether you run a small business or a large healthcare facility.