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by Craig Pryce January 31, 2023

Many businesses deal with highly confidential documents daily, so understanding the safest and greenest way to dispose of sensitive and private information is critical.

Lapse confidential waste disposal policies can have serious repercussions for your organisation, including blackmail, fraud, hefty fines, identity theft, legal prosecutions, and unauthorised copying or distribution of your intellectual property.

Large amounts of paper waste can be a real headache for business owners. We’ve assembled this guide so you can easily recognise confidential waste and discover the correct process for disposing of confidential documents.

What is classed as confidential waste?

Before discussing confidential waste disposal methods to ensure sensitive information doesn’t end up in the wrong hands, we need to clear up what constitutes confidential waste.

Confidential waste is any physical document or device containing personal data (name, address, phone number, financial records, etc.) that can be used to identify individuals. Other examples of confidential documentation include:

  • Business cards
  • Criminal records
  • Medical records
  • Payslips
  • Research data

This data could relate to customers, employees, or suppliers, and doesn’t need to be an official document. Even scribbling a name and number down on a post-it note must be handled and managed correctly to prevent a security breach.

How to get rid of confidential waste correctly

Businesses must abide by the laws laid out in the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which makes them responsible for safeguarding people’s personal information. Organisations cannot keep personal information indefinitely, and the type of data and its relevance will determine how long it can be retained.

Confidential waste can quickly accumulate in workplaces, taking up valuable shelf space and filling cupboards. Consider enlisting paper shredding services or purchasing an in-house shredder to free up space and effectively shred documents for added peace of mind.

Work out how much confidential waste your business handles and invest in one or more lockable confidential waste wheelie bins to ensure sensitive documents don’t end up in the wrong hands. These bins also feature a special confidential waste aperture for secure disposal.

Set up a safe and secure storage area for your bins so your documents are resilient to potential theft, locked away until collection. This also gives your employees a designated space to dispose of confidential waste, meaning it won’t inadvertently end up elsewhere on the premises where it could be vulnerable to interception.

Can you burn confidential waste?

Some businesses believe that incinerating their confidential waste is the most effective way to eliminate it. However, we would always advise against this method. Not only is it dangerous (fires can spread quickly, especially when burning paper) and environmentally unfriendly, there’s no guarantee this process will fully destroy the documents.

The only way to know if your documents have been destroyed is by burning them individually, however this isn’t very time efficient.

How to get rid of confidential waste at home

People who run home businesses often rely on one-off, contract-free shredding services to safely remove and destroy confidential waste. Moving house or disposing of a deceased relative’s paperwork can also result in homeowners sifting through mountains of confidential waste.

It’s a good idea to buy a paper shredder for your home, as you’ll inevitably have personal files such as bank statements and mortgage documents to dispose of at some stage.

An appropriately-sized confidential waste bin is also a sensible investment if you’re dealing with large amounts of personal data. However, as a general rule, homeowners will only require domestic paper shredding services as a one-off. This typically involves the property owner being sent confidential waste sacks, which the shredding company then collects and professionally destroys.

Where can I take confidential waste?

Some shredding services allow you to transport your confidential waste to the facility. You can see your files being shredded, before they are taken to a recycling centre, boosting your organisation’s green credentials. Depending on your vehicle and level of security, this process may mean there is a period where the documents aren’t as secure as they could be.

The most common practice for disposing of confidential documents is using a confidential waste collection service to collect your paperwork and transport it to a secure destination. Many business owners opt for the added reassurance of mobile shredding, where they or an appropriate person from the company can oversee their documents being shredded prior to being in transit.

What happens to confidential waste?

If you don’t use mobile shredding, your confidential waste will be shredded off-site by a licensed waste contractor at a secure premises or shredding depot. No confidential waste will leave the premises unshredded to ensure it is not compromised en route.

Waste is then either recycled at a paper mill or reused. Any items that can’t be recycled or reused will be sent to a waste-to-energy facility, where they are converted into energy to power homes and businesses. Most shredding companies will employ these eco-friendly methods, so that zero waste ends up in landfills.

Confidential waste regulations to be aware of

At some point, organisations have to eliminate confidential waste, so there is no hiding place. Businesses can receive heavy fines for violating the Data Protection Act (DPA). For example, the Scottish Borders Council was hit with a £250,000 fine in 2012 for dumping employee pension records into the public recycling bins at a local supermarket.

If you have the correct processes to dispose of the waste yourself, you must have a written contract with a specialist confidential waste disposal service. They’ll need to guarantee all aspects of the collection and destruction are carried out in a secure and compliant matter before issuing you with a certificate of destruction showing the weight and details of the collection. You should keep this certificate on file for six years.

Top tips for managing confidential waste

As we’ve discussed, it’s paramount that businesses have an effective, confidential waste management system to comply with regulations to process and destroy sensitive information correctly.

Follow these top tips so your business can dispose of confidential waste confidently.

  • The majority of data in the modern day is processed electronically. Look at ways you can limit the amount of printing to enhance your data security and limit your amount of paper waste.
  • Think about the security of your premises, how you can control access, and the area where your confidential waste is stored. This could include destroying branded corporate clothing and uniforms when they are no longer needed to prevent identity theft and stop unauthorised persons from entering your building.
  • Write out a confidential waste policy so all your staff knows their responsibilities for disposing of confidential waste in line with DPA standards.
  • Fit a wheelie bin lock to your existing bins so your confidential waste is securely stored, reducing the risk of theft and bin raiding.

If you require secure storage for your confidential waste, contact Wheelie Bin Solutions to ensure your personal and sensitive business data doesn’t end up in the wrong hands.

Craig Pryce

Craig Pryce

With over 17 years of experience in the waste and recycling industry, Craig is passionate about making recycling easier and reducing the negative impact of litter. He has been the managing director of Wheelie Bin Solutions (WBS) since January 2016, and prides the company on his expert knowledge, top-quality products, and customer service. His proudest moment was when WBS supported the 2012 Olympic Games, working in partnership with Contenur UK to supply over 9000 bin containers to all Olympic venues. Craig is always keen to share his knowledge, so whether you need advice about the benefits of a wheelie bin lock, or ideas for alternative uses for your wheelie bin, Craig will ensure your recycling and waste disposal habits are gold medal worthy.