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Two paths: document destruction companies can find success using either mobile shredding or plant-based destruction methods.

As concerns about identify theft hit the mainstream press and legislation affecting more industries gets put on the books, more companies are setting out to develop a published standard procedure to handle the shredding of documents.

To service this burgeoning demand, companies in the document destruction and storage business may need to offer a range of services. Increasingly, secure destruction firms are faced with the question of whether to provide a mobile shredding service or to set up a central shredding facility to which documents are taken--or whether to provide both services.

Trying to decide which of the procedures best suits a company can depend on a number of factors that bring both controlling costs and answering service requests into play.

DOLLARS AND SENSE. While most companies are reluctant to spell out the cost difference to the penny, the cost to shred material on site with a mobile shredding fleet is generally considered more expensive than hauling documents to a central off-site facility.

As Glen Howard with All Shredding Corp., a New York City-based shredding operation notes, "Price is king." With prices often higher for an on-sire shredding operation, companies are weighing the comparative advantages of both procedures.

Howard says that customers who have developed a high level of trust with their shredding company are more likely to choose the off-site shredding option.

As a rule of thumb, a company can operate a smaller fleet and make more stops per day if it is collecting documents to take to a central facility rather than shredding documents on site.

Security remains a major concern to most clients, and shredding companies contacted for this article all say that there are cases when a customer asks to view the shredding of the documents, either at the mobile shredding site or at a plant.

While developing a relationship with a customer may allow some companies to migrate their operations from on site to off site, many clients, through company policy, mandate that a witness is needed to view the actual shredding process.

Regarding the procedure of having a customer witness the destruction of documents on site, Mike Tingle with Tri-R Shredding, Denver, says, "When we offer on-site shredding, most people watch carefully the first time. Then they watch over us increasingly less with each visit."

Nonetheless, security continues to be one the biggest factors some customers keep in mind when deciding between the off-site and mobile shredding operations. Joe Lee, with Mega Shred, a Houston-based company, runs three mobile shredding vehicles to guarantee to his customers that the information is being destroyed at a company's site.

Many in-plant operators are using broadcast and recording technology to provide an electronic proof-of-destruction method for customers who request or insist upon it.

As to the difference in time, many shredding company managers agree that the actual time to shred documents, except for extremely large pick-ups, is only a minor factor. Lee notes that his trucks "can shred as fast as you can load it."

Mark McKenna, with Shred-Tech, a Cambridge, Ontario-based manufacturer of shredding equipment, including mobile shredding units, says that the technology for both mobile shredders and off-site shredding operations has sharply improved. For mobile shredders, the ability to process more material has occurred through a series of several steps during the past few years. McKenna says that five years ago, a shredder could handle around 1,000 pounds per hour. Now, the threshold can be as much as 3,000 pounds per hour, with some trucks capable of handling 6,000 pounds per hour or more.

The jump in the processing capabilities has allowed mobile shredding companies to handle larger accounts.

FEELING SECURE. A chief selling point for mobile shredding unit operators remains the ability to offer immediate proof of destruction. Lee cites a host of scenarios whereby the documents to be destroyed could be compromised, including an accident involving the pick-up vehicle that potentially could cause the documents to be exposed.

Even though some of these scenarios are unlikely, they can be among the factors companies weight when choosing between on-site and off-site destruction when hiring a document destruction company.

Operators of plant-based locations have developed several ways to offer proof of destruction, including providing tapes, time stamps and other forms of documentation to guarantee that the information was shredded in a secure environment.

Unless it is a written guideline to have an employee witness either an on-site or off-site procedure, most customers, after establishing a rapport with the document destruction firm, rely instead on certification provided by the shredding company to verify that the information was properly destroyed.

Keith Ayscue, with Trident Paper Recycling, High Point, N.C., feels that mobile shredding is well suited for his smaller customers. At the same time, companies that generate a significant amount of documents to be destroyed are more likely to opt for off-site document shredding.

While there are variations in the amount of material they can handle, most shredding vehicles can process around 12,000 pounds of documents and files before having to dispose of the resulting material.

As a way of improving the security of off-site destruction, Tingle notes that newer truck designs allow a collection vehicle to automatically dump bins into truck compartments without any human contact before they are similarly automatically placed on the shredding conveyor at the plant.

"The contents of a bin are dumped into a larger bin that is sealed until it gets to the plant. The plant operator, who has been screened with a background check by Tri-R, places the documents into a shredder that reduces the material to 'quarter/ nickel/dime' sizes," says Tingle. "I have come around to believe that off-site shredding is at least as secure as on-site shredding, if not more so," he adds.

The fact that smaller customers are often more interested in mobile shredding service is why Trident Paper Recycling is finding it more important to look at investing in a mobile shredding vehicle to handle many of these potential smaller accounts.

While servicing larger generators can be difficult for mobile shredding trucks, smaller businesses are generally a good fit for these operations.

Absolute Shredding LLC, Raritan, N.J., provides both on-site and off-site shredding options. The company's Stephan Mandanaro says that for those customers who opt to have the material shredded off site, Absolute Shredding provides a wide range of services to the customers, including videotapes and time stamps. In fact, Absolute Shredding is looking at the possiblity of adding a new feature that would allow the customer to view the shredding procedure in a real-time environment.

MIXED MEDIA. While there are differences of opinion on some of the selling points of on-site vs. off-site shredding, a factor changing the dynamics of the secure destruction industry is that more companies are requesting secure shredding of additional, non-fiber products.

For example, many customers ask about destruction of videotapes, CD-ROMs, cassette tapes, microfiche, photographs and other materials. Additionally, some clients request for companies to securely handle and destroy computer hard drives.

While commingling these materials in small amounts with fiber-based shred is acceptable for some companies, the overall trend is to focus on having these items destroyed at a plant.

Mandanaro says that the Absolute Shredding is learning that more customers who have electronic media to be destroyed are looking at using a method called degaussing.

With this method of destruction, storage media is magnetically wiped clean. For most companies with written procedure manuals, it is usually acceptable for this task to be done at an off-site location.

Degaussing units can, in theory, be placed on a truck. However, many secure destruction companies are finding that locating the degausser at a shredding plant can allow them to handle a larger volume of electronic material more quickly than a smaller piece of equipment located on a mobile unit is capable of handling.

Once all security needs are met, another factor that comes into play is creating a shredded product that is recyclable. Material that is exclusively fiber has an established market. However, if a range of other types of material need to be destroyed or shredded, throwing them into a hopper with the documents can degrade the material enough that, for recycling purposes, the value of the shredded paper becomes negligible.

What it all comes down to is what the client wants, says Mandanaro. "You have to look at the industry, the appropriate laws and the limitations and determine how the material should be handled,." he adds.


Does a fire at a central document destruction facility count as proper and certifiable destruction of documents?

It is unclear whether most federal and state regulations address this issue, but, unfortunately, the matter does occasionally become a source of debate.

In January of this year, a Durham, N.C., information destruction firm known as Shred All was one of two businesses destroyed by a fire at a multi-tenant building.

If the property and casualty insurance rates set by that industry are any indicator, recycling plants have long been considered facilities that are prone to fires.

Whether destruction firms consider themselves in the recycling business or not, their facilities feature the same volatile mixture of large piles or bales of paper, motorized (and thus prone to overheating) equipment and forklifts zipping along close to the ground from which sparks could emanate.

Both mobile shredding and collection fleets carry the added cost of driver liability insurance, which can be partly pegged to company and driver history.


Proof of destruction can take many forms in an era when there are many different ways to record or broadcast an event.

If providing a certificate is not considered proof of destruction by a customer's security department (or its legal department's reading of a regulation), then in-plant shredder operators are not letting that stand in their way of providing proof of secure destruction.

Some information destruction companies are offering video or digital recordings of files or products being destroyed. Customers can then view and keep these recordings on file as their proof of destruction.

Others provide live Web casts that can be stored for later viewing if that is required. Vangel Paper Inc., a Maryland-based recycling and secure destruction company, has set up one such closed-circuit television (CCTV) system.

The company is using a system designed by technology supplier Port Networks Inc., Baltimore, whose service offerings include a one-camera, "video-over-Internet" service that can be obtained for less than $30 per month.

The system Vangel Paper uses coats around $100 per month, according to the companies, and includes digital video cameras with built-in servers connected via Ethernet to a network storage server.

"When I first read about Port Networks IP Surveillance, I thought it was too good to be true," says Vangel Paper Account Manager Jim Blanchard. "But now we have a way to monitor, record and replay everything that goes on in our secured shredding facility, right from our desktop PCs, at a very reasonable price."

The author is Recycling Today senior editor and Internet editor and can be contacted at
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Title Annotation:Shredding Equipment Focus
Author:Sandoval, Dan
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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