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Appetite for destruction - confidential waste shredding

Despite operating a successful commercial waste recycling business, London Waste Solutions (LWS) managing director Vince Whelan saw confidential shredding as a new opportunity.

“I’d seen the shredding idea and it fitted in with our types of customers, such as city banks,” he says. “Many of them wanted confidential shredding and had been doing it offsite. We offer general waste and paper recycling, so we decided to offer the shredding service as well to our existing clients.”

For shredder van operator Peter Sullivan, a typical day starts at 3.30am, as the van makes its way into central London. He says: “We go out at dawn because the machine is quite noisy, so it makes sense to do it when no-one’s around.”

Although there’s no such thing as a normal shift for Sullivan, because the number of jobs will vary from day to day, depending on the size of the client and the payment scheme used, an average collection is weekly or fortnightly for customers, due to the lack of adequate storage space in the city.

“It’s very difficult to say which kind of business generates the most waste,” says Whelan. “You will get a shop which won’t generate much at all or you’ll get an accountancy firm that will generate a lot. Banks, insurance companies and trading floors all have very high demand.”

LWS offers weekly, fortnightly and monthly shredding collections in addition to an on-demand service, and will collect confidential paper in bags, lockable bins which can only be unlocked by the van’s driver, tagged bags or wooden ‘consoles’ with liners that can be exchanged.

Whelan looked at a number of types of shredder to do the job before settling on New Zealand-based shredder manufacturer Axo. Its shredding truck can process 2.5 tonnes of material an hour, including uniforms and CDs, and has a payload capacity of up to 6.5 tonnes. When the van is full after a day’s shredding, the waste is taken to a paper merchant, where it is baled and sent on to various processors.

In addition to the obligatory waste transfer note, the LWS service supplies a destruction note to provide clients with proof that the material has been shredded. The note also details how much material was shredded and at what time the shredding took place.

Whelan believes that a growing interest in confidential shredding services follows concerns that many businesses have over their privacy and security in the modern age.

He says: “It’s the concern that someone might root through your bins, whether that be competitors or thieves. Businesses have a legal requirement under the Data Protection Act to protect other people’s data. If you are an insurance company, you will have access to bank details, names, addresses, dates of birth - you have a legal responsibility to protect those and, if you don’t, the fines are horrendous.”

What about the move towards businesses of cutting down on printed material and going paperless? “There is supposed to have been this ‘paperless office’, which people have talked about for 20 years. But it doesn’t seem to have happened and people still print their e-mails,” Whelan responds.

Following the positive reception that LWS’s first ‘taster’ shredder van has received, Whelan now plans to extend the service, with a focus on specific pockets of central London and outside the capital.

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