Shredding companies are on a tear

Shredding companies are on a tear

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — In less than three minutes, it was over.

With the flip of a switch, Scott Linzy tilted a bushel of white paper files into the steel jaws inside his mobile shredding truck.

Instantly, the pile of paper was reduced to a mound of confetti-like fluff. A security camera on the side of the Absolute Secured Shredding Inc.’s truck recorded the quick-moving process.

Checking his clipboard, Linzy said the parking lot stop — outside a Rancho Cordova, Calif., medical records company last month — is the first of 20 to 30 on his daily route.

“Most take only five to 10 minutes,’’ said Linzy, president of the family-owned, Fair Oaks, Calif.-based business.

In an era of heightened concerns about identity theft and government mandates on confidentiality, the business of mobile document disposal — shredders on wheels, if you will — is thriving.

Many companies are privately held and don’t disclose revenue. But the National Association of Information Destruction Inc., a trade group for the industry, says its membership has soared in the last five years, from 150 to more than 1,000 today.

Much of that growth has been fueled by fears of identity theft, which hit 8.4 million adult Americans in 2007, costing an average of $5,720 per victim, according to a recent Javelin Strategy & Research study.

“(Shredding) is one of the top five things people can do to protect themselves from the known avenues of ID theft,’’ said Joanne McNabb, chief of the California Office of Privacy Protection.

Whether it’s medical record files or long-ago tax returns, people are clamoring for a place to safely unload their personal and business-related financial documents.

The demand for secure shredding — both at home and at work — is what’s driving the growth of document-destruction companies, from mom-and-pop businesses like Linzy’s Absolute Secured to worldwide firms like Canada-based Shred-It.

In California, businesses are required to destroy or render “unreadable’’ and “undecipherable’’ any documents containing personal information, whether it’s a driver’s license or credit card number. About 15 other states have similar laws. Federal law also requires businesses to safeguard consumers’ personal information, prompting some states to crack down on companies that don’t carefully discard their customers’ information.

Commercial shredding comes in several forms — from so-called pierce-and-tear, a type of cross-cut that rips paper into pieces smaller than your thumb, to grinders that reduce it to almost a powder.

Rates vary. Some companies charge by the box, say $70 for up to three 14-inch by 16-inch file boxes. Some charge by time, say an 18-minute stop to do eight or 10 boxes, for $75.

There also are off-site companies like Pacific Storage Co., which shreds large-volume loads from clients like hospitals or banks at its plant where the process is recorded on camera.

Compared with do-it-yourself shredding at home or the office, mobile companies maintain it’s far cheaper, faster — and more secure — to use a one-stop shredding service. A typical job of 250 pounds of paper — about the size of a 95-gallon garbage container — takes just a few minutes to chew up and spit out into a securely locked shredding truck.

“To do the same job with an employee sitting in front of a shredder, it would probably take a week, burn through two or three shredders, and use up an employee’s valuable time,’’ said Doug Rosevold, owner of Viking Shred in Roseville, Calif.

The hardened steel shredding teeth used by most mobile services can rip through just about any type of office metal, including staples, paper clips and other fasteners.

Rosevold was working in the banking industry when he realized the demand for secure document destruction. Like his peers, he says security is a huge issue with clients.

That’s why the $200,000 trucks have remote cameras so customers can watch their files being shredded — live.

“There’s nothing more secure than you visually watching it being shredded,’’ he said. Unless, “it’s putting it in your fireplace and watching it burn up.’’

Shredding companies not only get paid by customers, but also sell their confetti-like tonnage to paper recyclers. Currently, they’re getting about $150 a ton, up from $65 a ton about five years ago.

Absolute Secured’s hydraulic-mounted shredding truck can pulverize about 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of paper an hour, generating about 50 tons a week between its two vehicles.

And though competitors are piling up, co-owner Ray Linzy isn’t concerned.

“There’s a lot of shredders,’’ he said, “but there’s still a lot of paper.’’

Florida Shredding