How to Dispose of Important Papers Without a Shredder
Disposing of important and confidential papers is extremely important to protect yourself and your employees, as well as your customers. Carelessly discarded documents may be used by criminals for the purposes of identity theft; additionally, privacy laws might require you to safely dispose of certain types of documents, such as client files or health and insurance records. Although running these documents through a shredder remains one of the safest ways to get rid of them, there are several alternative ways you can use to destroy them yourself or, at least, render them unrecognizable enough that it would be extremely difficult to reconstruct usable information from them.
If the number of documents you have to destroy isn't very large, cutting them into small pieces manually might be a workable solution. Use a hole punch to riddle the most sensitive parts of each document with holes, taking special care to ensure particularly key information, such as social security numbers, is thoroughly destroyed, then cut what remains of the paper into small pieces using heavy-duty scissors. This method, although effective if done carefully, is extremely time-consuming and inefficient.
If you have a large number of documents to destroy, consider burning them in a furnace or an open outdoors area. Feed the papers into the fire a few at a time or rip them into pieces before setting the fire to ensure they burn thoroughly, since the absence of oxygen in the middle of a large stack of documents can delay or prevent the fire from consuming the paper. This method is the safest, resulting in complete destruction of the sensitive information if done correctly; however, you may have issues finding a location where you can regularly burn documents, especially since burning outside is not permitted within most city limits, unless you have a fire permit.
Prolonged soaking in water can make any piece of paper completely unreadable. On a small scale, this can be done by placing a few sheets of paper inside a resealable plastic bag filled with water; or on a larger scale, you can use a large bucket or trash can. Leave the documents to soak for a few hours to a few days, depending on the quantity. Once the documents have been destroyed, remove as much water from them as possible, place the resulting pulp in a heavy-duty trash bag and dispose of it through normal means. Although effective, this method is time consuming and can quickly become very messy.
If you have a large amount of documents you need to destroy, consider hiring an external company to dispose of them for you safely. Although you will need to pay a fee, this will be offset by the quality of the service and the peace of mind you will gain from knowing the documents have been safely eliminated; furthermore, you will have additional spare time to take care of your small business, time that you otherwise would have had to spend destroying the documents.