A History of Shredding Paper
Discover the history of shredding paper
Ever since the invention of paper, there’s been a necessity to destroy it.
Pre 20th Century, the most effective way of destroying a paper record was to burn it. Today for the protection and secure destruction of documents we commonly use an office shredder or a professional company to shred our confidential papers. Here we look at the history of shredding paper, beginning with the first patented invention of the shredder.
Invention of shredding paper
Back in the turn of the 20th Century, German, Abbot Augustus Low filed for a patent for a shredding machine. Sadly, it never made it to the manufacturing process. Low died in 1912 before he could witness his invention in full operation.
First shredder usage
The first believed usage of a shredding machine was in 1935 when engineer Adolf Ehinger developed a shredding machine similar to the hand cranked pasta machine. It was believed this was used to shred Nazi propaganda.
Further developments were made in 1959 when a motorised design was invented for paper shredding. It was primarily marketed to serve financial and government institutions.
Shredders weren’t widely recognised by the public until reported Watergate scandal of 1973. Shredding machines were widely used in the financial sector and governments but not in general business. It was not until around the 1980’s that it became more commonplace for shredding machines to be used by businesses.
History of shredding paper in the 20th Century
During the Cold War, there was a growing requirement for shredding machines in the face of global espionage. During this war, a culture of fear was created, and with it the need to protect business, legal and governmental data from potential spies. There was very little regulation or policy on how to handle data and dispose of confidential waste. Developments on how data is held and destroyed has been monitored more closely in the latter 20th Century by the Data Protection Agency and more recently by the advent of GDPR in Europe.
One of the most famous shredding accounts is that of the piecing together of a highly sensitive document relating to the Iran / US war. The documents were shredded into strips which were then painstakingly pieced together by Persian rug makers to reveal the contents of the documents.
21st Century Shredding
Today businesses commonly use cross-cut office shredders that cut to 2 x 14 mm pieces. Many businesses with a larger requirement or multiple sites choose to opt for on-site shredding via mobile shredding trucks. The machines within these vehicles cut paper to 4mm – 16mm particles so deciphering the contents is impossible. The material is baled and sent to paper mills for recycling. This is by far the most secure way of shredding old documents containing private contact details, financial or legal information.
The home / office shredder
Popularity has risen within the household for the safe disposal of documents containing personal information such as bank statements, medical information or receipts. The rise in the threat of identity fraud committed by criminals rifling through household rubbish bins to obtain private information has meant that many of us now have a small shredder for use at home as well as the office.