Paper Shredding Services Buying Guide

Kayla Harrison
, Contributing Writer
| Updated
Dec 04, 2018

Why Choose a Paper Shredding Service?

Paper shredding is required by law for many industries, including medical, legal and government agencies. These companies are required to keep client information secure and maintain a paper trail of how sensitive documents have been stored and destroyed. These companies are often subjected to audits to ensure compliance to both federal and state regulations, including HIPAA (for medical facilities), FACTA (companies dealing with personal or business credit), GLA (for bank and other financial institutions), and GSA (government organizations). 

When comparing paper shredding companies, it is important to choose one that is compliant with the National Association for Information Destruction, or NAID. This means the company follows all required safety procedures and will provide you with a certificate of destruction that serves as proof of compliance should your company ever be audited. Additional NAID requirements include how documents are transported and stored, the turnaround time from when your paper is picked up until it is shredded, and the particle size for certain documents.

All employees of NAID-certified facilities must go through a thorough background check before being hired and pass a specified training that includes knowledge of federal, state, and local regulations. 


The price will vary depending on how much shredding needs to be done. Companies like Ship 'N' Shred charge $30 for a 30-pound box and $45 for a 65-pound box. Other company prices depend on the location of shredding. Iron Mountain charges $10 per box if the company comes to your office and shreds there. They charge $99 for one bin and $40 for each additional bin if they pick it up and bring it to their location to shred. Some companies allow you to drop your documents off at their stores, which tends to cost less. Companies like Shred-it and ProShred charge around $10 per box or $20 for less than 25 pounds.

Features to Consider


Most security measures are dictated by the NAID and must be strictly adhered to in order to retain certification. 

When looking for a shredding service, an important factor to consider is assurance that no one will see the documents you are shredding. Consoles provided to your building should be locked and have a unique security code, known as a serial number log, to track the box and its contents throughout the shredding process.

Each service differs on who is provided a key to your console. National Shred Alliance provides you with one key in case you accidentally place a document in the container and need to retrieve it. Iron Mountain, however, doesn't leave a key onsite. Instead, you must call and schedule an emergency rescue. A certified and trained employee will come to your office with your console key to open it up for you to retrieve the document. 

Every service that is NAID-certified must provide a chain of custody, a document showing who had access to your console and contents from the time it was picked up from your office until it was shredded. This document often accompanies the certificate of destruction, which is also required by NAID-certified shredding companies. 

The unique exception is Ship 'N' Shred, which does not provide a locked console to your building. Instead, you bring your documents to a Ship 'N' Shred location where your boxed documents are labeled with a unique barcode that is scanned and traced from the time you drop it off until it arrives at a Shred Nations facility. Ship 'N' Shred doesn't have shredding facilities of its own; instead, it is part of the Shred Nations family that takes care of document destruction while Ship 'N' Shred acts as the drop-off point. 

To enhance security, companies may give additional support. Shred-it provides a security-risk assessment to help you determine who should have access to the documents, where the best place is in your office for the console, which documents should be shredded, and if any records should be digitized and stored before being destroyed. PROSHRED has a blog that provides a valuable knowledgebase, informing clients of changes to destruction laws, popular trends and other tips for minimizing your risk of identity theft. 

Particle Size

The size of the shredded paper is also important for security reasons. The smaller the pieces after shredding, the less likely it will be able to be pieced back together or to have readable text on the final pieces. The Deutsche Industrial Norm, or DIN, is an international standard for destruction. DIN 32 757 specifies the various shred levels that correspond to the size of the shred. Level 1 refers to any shred under 1/2 inch wide. Level 2 is under 1/4 inch wide. Both of these levels are strips and are not very secure. 

Cross-shredding is more secure than strip cutting due to the size and shape of the shreds. Cross-shredding is minute and shreds documents in inconsistent shapes, making it almost impossible for someone to piece together sensitive information. Levels 3, 4 and 5 are all achieved using crosscut shredders. A Level 3 is considered a medium shred, though not small enough for unclassified government documents. These require at least a Level 4, where the particles measure 3/32 x 5/8 inch or less. A Level 4 is the minimum required for compliance with HIPAA, FACTA and other document-security laws. 

Government documents require an even smaller shred if it is a classified document (varied between 1/5 and 5/8 of an inch), but only specific facilities are Level 6-certified and are able to handle these types of documents. These specialty facilities are listed on the National Security Agency's (NSA) website and are typically located close to government facilities. 

Additional Features

The best paper shredding companies offer services beyond destroying documents. Media and hard-drive destruction are important services to look for if your company stores a lot of sensitive material in digital formats. Also, some companies, such as American Shredding, are equipped to handle destruction of prototypes, product samples and other sensitive material that you don't want landing into the hands of your competitors.

Determine Your Paper Shredding Needs

Paper shredding services focus on the destruction of documents that typically contain sensitive client or employee information or company trade secrets. If you have a home office or a small amount of nonsensitive material to shred, you can purchase a paper shredder to use yourself. 

Document shredding is only one part of a full document management process. Some document management solutions we've reviewed offer additional services, such as document scanning and digital archiving. However, our top-ranking paper shredding services also offer these services, so you may not have to employ a separate facility in order to meet these needs. 

For more help in determining when you may need a paper shredding service or how to decide which service is right for you, we have several articles on document destruction