May 06, 2024

How Your Business Can Safeguard Data While Sustaining the Environment

Despite much of our work and communication happening digitally in today’s hybrid world, the American workforce still uses a significant amount of paper. In the U.S., the average office worker uses nearly 10,000 sheets annually. This use of paper begs the question: where does it all end up?

While many office documents need to be kept, numerous pages still end up in the trash. Many employees, in an effort to be environmentally friendly, may throw papers in the recycling bin. However, to best protect your business from a data breach, any document containing confidential information should be discarded into a secure, locked container and securely destroyed before recycling*.

Seven Reasons Why Document Security and Sustainability Go Hand-in-Hand

Here’s why every workplace should adopt a policy that includes both security and sustainability:

  1. Compliance with Privacy Laws: Businesses bear a legal responsibility to protect private information, and non-compliance can result in substantial fines or even imprisonment. Privacy laws include the Gramm Leach Bliley Act, the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act, the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, and others.
  2. Mitigating Data Breach Risks: Improper disposal of paper documents increases the risk of data breaches, potentially leading to fraud, identity theft, and other illicit activities. Partnering with a reputable document destruction company helps protect data from the moment a document is thrown in a secure container or tote to the moment it is shredded, and finally recycled.
  3. Financial and Reputational Safeguards: IBM’s 2023 Cost of Data Breach Study reported that the average cost of a data breach was 4.45 million USD—a 15% increase compared to the previous three years. Beyond monetary losses, data breaches can negatively impact a company’s reputation and erode customer trust and loyalty.
  4. Theft Prevention: Unfortunately, employee theft is always a possibility. Companies may mitigate this risk by removing opportunities for bad actors to access private data through partnership with a reliable shredding service. With Shred-it®, employees drop their confidential documents in a securely locked console. Unlike the traditional recycling disposal process, where any person in the office could view and take papers thrown away in blue bins. Additionally, maintaining a clean desk policy may effectively reduce the risk of theft.
  5. Environmental Conservation: Recycling paper, an activity in a circular economy, can potentially reduce the need to harvest trees. In 2023, Shred-it securely collected approximately 906 million pounds of shredded sorted office paper. By adopting secure document destruction and recycling programs, you can minimize your environmental footprint and actively promote sustainability.
  6. Waste Reduction and Energy Savings: The sheer volume of global paper waste underscores the urgency of effective waste management. According to Waste Management Bulletin, of the estimated 110 million tons of paper and cardboard waste managed in the U.S. in 2019, approximately 56% was landfilled and 38% was recycled. Without secure document destruction and recycling programs, employees may throw sensitive papers into the garbage, adding to landfill waste and increasing the risk of a data breach.
  7. Overall Environmental Benefits: Recycling paper yields a host of environmental advantages, including resource conservation, energy savings, and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Forward-thinking organizations can further champion environmental stewardship by collaborating with business partners to assess and enhance sustainability practices throughout their supply chains.

How to Recycle Paper in a Secure and Energy-Saving Way

When it comes to paper recycling, adopting secure and sustainable practices is essential. Consider the following steps to help ensure both data protection and environmental consciousness:

  1. Partner with a Professional Document Destruction Company: Collaborate with a reputable (NAID Certified) document destruction service that provides secure handling of materials from start to finish.
  2. Replace Blue Bins with Locked Containers or Totes*: Swap out traditional blue recycling bins for locked containers or totes strategically placed throughout the workplace. Employees may conveniently discard confidential documents, knowing they’ll undergo secure destruction and subsequent recycling.
  3. Implement a Shred-it-All Policy: A shred-it-all policy encourages employees to consider if there are any requirements to retain the document (in accordance with internal policy), and, if not, then immediately and securely dispose of it.
  4. Integrate Recycling into the Document Destruction Process: In the Shred-it® process, shredded paper is provided to paper mills for recycling and repurposing, supporting sustainability goals without compromising data security.

Recycling Supports a More Secure and Sustainable Future

The good news is that paper recycling has become a common practice both in workplaces and homes, and its impact is significant. According to the American Forest and Paper Association, the paper recovery rate in the United States reached 67.9% in 2022.

By partnering with a secure document destruction service that recycles the shredded paper, you not only safeguard valuable workplace information but also contribute to the preservation of natural resources like trees and water while reducing pollution. Here’s how:

  1. Resources: Recycling one ton of office paper can yield remarkable benefits. It saves approximately 17 mature trees and conserves energy equivalent to consuming 322 gallons of gasoline, as estimated by the EPA.
  2. Recycling Efficiency: When manufacturing one ton of office paper and computer paper with recycled paper can save approximately 3,000 and 4,000 kilowatt hours compared to a ton of paper made with virgin wood products.
  3. New Paper Products: Transforming recycled paper into fresh products significantly reduces energy and water usage. In 2022, approximately 80% of all U.S. mills used some recycled paper to make new products. By streamlining energy-intensive steps and minimizing water-intensive processes, we contribute to a more sustainable future.

Start Protecting Your Business

Learn more about our secure document destruction process and the paper shredding service options that best meet your needs. Together, we can embrace security, sustainability, and responsible business practices.

* Some local regulations may require the recycling of all paper with your local municipality.