Only a third of companies shred private documents

The number of businesses recycling in London has increased over the last 5 years, but almost two thirds of offices don’t shred confidential documents.

A study of more than 800 London-based businesses finds that almost two-thirds do not shred private documents before binning or recycling them, despite the fact the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) can fine business up to £500,000 for failing to comply with the Data Protection Act’s rules for confidential waste.

The survey, commissioned by environmental waste clearance company Envirowaste, finds that among the confidential documents not properly disposed of, contracts containing sensitive data are the most commonly mishandled.

EnviroWaste operates in central London and the surrounding areas, and estimates it has picked up over 1.2 tonnes of confidential waste in the last 12 months. This is an 28 per cent increase, year-on-year.

Of the respondents that admit they didn’t shred private documents, when asked ‘which of the following documents do you most commonly dispose of?’, more than half (53 per cent) say client contracts, booking information (36 per cent) and invoices (29 per cent).

The worst business sectors to shred private documents without shredding them are hospitality (81 per cent), marketing and PR (74 per cent) and finance (70 per cent).

James Rubin owner of EnviroWaste says, ‘It’s good to see the demand of our secure document destruction service getting busier, it means businesses are aware of the importance of keeping confidential documents secure and destroyed properly.

‘However, the issue comes when we find confidential documents coming through our doors as part of the general waste clearances we carry out, meaning the customer has not taken the time to separate the sensitive documents from their general waste.’

Rubin adds, ‘Our secure destruction of confidential material policy protects our customers for material in our care, but if companies are using other recycling services, or worse just putting these documents in the bin, there can be little to no protection.

‘We’re getting better at protecting ourselves online, but companies need ensure policies around confidential documents are being followed. There may be a false sense of security that comes with recycling, but shredding documents beforehand ensures nothing slips through the net.’

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