Thanks to ever-increasing concerns about privacy rights and identity theft, more and more businesses and municipalities are sponsoring "community shred days."
Banks, accountants, and professional organizers are common sponsors of free shredding events or "shred-a-thons," which are especially likely to occur around IRS tax time, after April 15. It's a great time of year to securely dispose of unwanted documents, financial records, and computer media. Community shredders are also a lot quicker than feeding thousands of sheets of paper into a desktop shredder four or five sheets at a time.
The mobile shredding company, Shred-it, also sponsors community shred days and lists them on its Website. When a mobile shredder is involved, it usually parks right outside the bank, store, or small business that is co-sponsoring the event. Site-based shredding companies may also offer shred days at their plants. Organizations such as NAID, the National Association for Information Destruction, may also promote and host community shredding events, or assist shred companies in planning them. Hiring a mobile shredder for a community event costs from $150 to $250 an hour, according to a July 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal. But some companies will cut their rates or show up for free, due to the publicity and/or altruistic goals. (Also, the shredding companies are able to resell the shredded paper as recycled material.)
At some events, there's even entertainment and kids' activities, making the experience a veritable shred party. It's actually fun to see the paper loaded into the shred trucks, some of which even have windows through which people can observe the shredding process.
Local governments and waste management firms might also offer community shredders, as a public service or to cut down on paper waste in landfills.
Before you show up to a community shred day, check to see if there are any special requirements. For example, there may be a limit to how many banker's boxes worth of paper you can bring. Some shred days can accommodate CDs, DVDs, and other computer media, but some cannot. Most of the time, staples and paper clips aren't a dealbreaker.
Whether you're concerned about identity theft or just want to get rid of clutter, a community shred day is a great way to go. Not all are free, but those that aren't generally charge a nominal fee per box or per pound of paper, or offer something like: first three boxes free; $5 each for additional boxes. Some shred days partner with charitable organizations to accept cash donations, which are probably tax-deductible.
A banker's box holds about 1 cubic foot of paper. Good things to pack for a community shredding event include: old tax documents (supporting forms; not your returns), receipts, bank and credit card statements, checkbooks, pay stubs, insurance and medical information, legal files, junk mail, and so on.
Get there early, because some shred days end when the truck is full.