Confidential Waste Management
The primary considerations for confidential waste management is to ensure that any of the data that is held either in documents or discarded hardware such as disc drives is completely destroyed so that it cannot be used by someone else.
For documents this usually involves processes such as shredding while computers will need to have their hard drives destroyed to be completely secure. There are plenty of stories where a hard drive or mobile phone has ended up in the wrong hands and the data extracted by nefarious individuals who can then access information such as bank details.
As with other types of general waste management, confidential information disposal follows the guidelines of the waste hierarchy. The caveat which affects the hierarchy is that the disposal needs to ensure no data can be used by third parties who come across it. For this reason, the passing on or selling of property like mobile phones and laptops is not necessarily a good idea.
The Waste Hierarchy
- Prevention: the first stage of the hierarchy states that we should all be doing as much as we can to prevent creating waste in the first place. For businesses this could include moving accounts onto secure digital platforms rather than using printouts or changing storage from CDs to other solutions such as the cloud.
- Reuse: Many offices can reuse their confidential waste but there has to be a lot of care taken. For example, if you want to give computers away to charities then you will need to replace the hard drive and destroy the old one. Repurposed phones can, of course, be given to new employees but final disposal again needs to be handled carefully. On the whole, though, when it comes to confidential waste and reuse there are many hurdles to overcome and companies have to have the right policy in place.
- Recycling: Certainly for paper waste there is the option to shred and send to recycling plants where the documents can be then pulped and made into more paper. This is the route that most businesses and organisations choose.
- Other Recovery: Other recovery methods include anaerobic digestion and incineration to provide heat and electricity.
- Disposal: The final solution is to send waste to landfill but this should be the last ditch option. No confidential waste should end up here and shouldn’t do if the previous steps have been followed properly.
Confidential Waste Strategy
All businesses and organisation, including schools, colleges and councils, need to ensure that they have a strategy in place for dealing with confidential waste. This not only involves actually defining what is confidential waste but having a clear process in place for making sure sensitive information is not just thrown on the general waste heap. The process could include:
- What needs to be incinerated and what can be disposed of via options such as shredding.
- How confidential waste is kept separate in clearly identifiable containers.
- Which internal authorised personnel should handle the waste.
- Which company is used to collect and transport the confidential waste.
There are confidential waste companies that will also handle the shredding and safe disposal of documents. Many companies are now opting for this as a better option because there is a clear audit trail that shows how the waste has been disposed of.
Choosing the Right Confidential Waste Service
As with any contracted provision, finding the right confidential waste service is important. One way to ensure that you are getting the service you need is to choose a company with BS EN 15713 certification. This means they fulfil all the standard criteria for disposing of confidential waste securely. This includes:
- The company screening their own security personnel.
- Having the right security on site.
- Employing the appropriate security measures when they dispose of waste.
- Being able to trace the destruction process clearly through the paperwork.
Disposal of Confidential Waste
The final part of the confidential waste management process is how it is disposed of when on site. This can include recycling paper for documents and the incineration of property such as CD or flash sticks. Where confidential information is involved, specialist companies should provide documentation of the destruction process. For items such as computers you may find that the hard drive needs to be destroyed but that other components can be recycled.
Domestic Confidential Waste
There is much more leeway for confidential waste in the home and shredding should be the main solution for paper which can then be added to the general waste disposal. CDs with data on them can also be cut up as can bank cards and other sensitive items.
As with commercial businesses, care should be taken when disposing of items such as mobile phones, tablets and computers because of the potential of retrieving information such as bank details from hard drives. You can buy data recovery software for as little as £100 and all someone has to do is plug your discarded device into their computer and click ‘Go’. It pays to take care when disposing of items such as smartphones and PCs even if you want to make a little extra money selling it second hand.
Find out more about legislation and confidential waste.