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Free Paper Document Shredding

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Gears of a Paper ShredderMy crosscut paper shredder, a deal I got from Staples a few years back, has finally kicked the bucket. After years of dutiful service, it no longer turns on and for a $20 shredder, it did fine work. I knew it was on its way out though so it was no surprise when the light no longer turned on for me the other day.

To be honest, I didn’t really mind it going because I don’t like shredding things. It’s one of those necessary evils of life but it’s one where you don’t really get much out of it – just some shredded paper, paper particles, and a mess if you miss the bag when you empty the bucket.

When I used to work in an office, I’d take all my papers there to shred. It was a government contractor so you know the shredders there were hardcore. Crosscut didn’t cut it, these things seem to turn paper into tiny particles. I used to shred everything there because it was fast and simple. You could throw in a stack of papers and be done in less than a minute (and it was cool to watch).

Now that I can’t take advantage of that monstrosity, where can I go to get a stack of papers shredded without buying a new shredder and sitting in front of it for ten minutes?

Your Local Bank

Banks often contract out their shredding to shredding companies and collect all that shreddable paper in locked bins somewhere in the branch. At my local bank, it’s a bin right next to the customer service desk. Their security needs are much higher than yours so I feel comfortable throwing sensitive documents into those bins and so when I do make a trip to the bank, I often see if I have a few sheets lying around that I’ve been meaning to shred but just haven’t gotten around to.

I’ve long wondered if this is something I should be taking advantage of as it’s not advertised as a service. When I asked the teller staffing the customer service desk, he said that it wasn’t a problem. While I wouldn’t bring a box of documents, a few wouldn’t make a difference.

Free Shredding Events

There are frequently free shredding events all across the country as counties and municipalities offer it as a service to residents. They peak during and just after tax season, when we’re most likely to have documents we want to shred, but if you search your community bulletin board you might find out when the next one is.

Besides local government, various organizations often have shredding events as a marketing and outreach tool. Companies that shred documents, like Shred-It, will hold local events as well so keep an eye out for them.

Office Supply Stores

If there aren’t any free paper shredding events in your area, and most seem to happen around tax season in a few months, the best pay alternative appears to be one of the office supply stores. Staples and Office Depot, both in partnership with Iron Mountain, will shred on location as well as ship it to Iron Mountain if the job is larger. Office Depot charges 99 cents a pound while Staples charges just 79 cents a pound. I was surprised how cheap the pay options were.

I found this coupon on Fatwallet for 5 lbs. of free shredding at Office Depot, expires 4/16/2013. I haven’t tried it.

If you’re willing to wait, there’s always a tax day promotion offered by an office supply store for free shredding. Last year, Office Depot offered 5 pounds of free shredding.

The appeal of shredding in bulk, whether it’s paying 79-99 cents a pound or getting it for free, is that you’re saving yourself time. The reality is that I won’t pay a hundred dollars for a shredder. I’d only pay like $20-30 for one and those don’t shred 10 pages at once in 10 seconds. They shred at a much slower pace, much slower than my patience allows. I think I’ll just wait for a free shredding event or, if I accumulate enough documents, just pay for it at Staples.

(Photo: sometoast)

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7 Responses to “Free Paper Document Shredding”

  1. Ken says:

    Free shred days are becoming common at credit unions. One of my credit unions had a free shred day in which they had their shredding company park its shred truck next to the main office. They allowed up to 2 boxes of paper. You just dump the boxes into big plastic bins, and the truck lifts the bins into the shredder. You just have to be careful that no papers fly off as you dump the boxes into the bins.

  2. jeffbone says:

    I’m paranoid enough that I’ll take a pass on the “free shredding days”. Around here, most of those events involve handing a box (boxes) full of my personal information to someone who then throws it in the back of a truck, to be shredded somewhere else. If I can’t witness the material actually going into the hopper, I’ll find another way to get it done.

  3. Steve says:

    I bot an “industrial” type shredder for $100. At Staples to get rid of years of my professional data. Unfortunately, I started getting congested after only a few minutes of using it. I believe that these generate huge amounts of very fine paper dust that is not good for you. I started using it outdoors but have never finished my hundreds of pounds of decades old stuff.

  4. Jim M says:

    I have participated in free shredding events before and have been very pleased with how they were handled. It feels good to get back all that space too.

  5. PM says:

    I don’t trust the shred companies myself, but luckily I live out in the country and burn all of my important papers in a barrel outside.

  6. Michael says:

    I love the photo — and the horrible job that shredder is doing. :-) It just underscores the need to use an actual cross-cut shredder instead of one that leave your paper in long(ish) ribbons.

  7. jim says:

    I have never bought, owned, or used a shredder. I tear my important papers into small pieces and throw them in with my trash, which isn’t much because I recycle all that I can. It is good exercise, I have saved money, I have never been exposed to that harmful paper dust, and I have never had to trust others to shred my documents at some event. Your blog has helped to teach me to spend less and save more. Keep up the good work.


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