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Mobile document disposal is a growth industry amid consumer concerns about identity theft and businesses' need to protect clients' information without running afoul of state and federal privacy protection laws.

The National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) reports that, in the United States alone, document shredding is a $1.2 billion a year industry and growing at a rate of 35 percent per year. The Sacramento Bee related in a May 2008 article that during the last five years, NAID has seen its membership grow from 150 to more than 1,000.

While the concept of and technology for shredding documents for security purposes has been around since the early 1900s, it wasn't until the mid-1980s that mobile shred services began to gain popularity. After the Enron scandal was revealed in 2001, public and corporate awareness was raised about secure document disposal, and the industry really began to take off. This opened up a lot of opportunities for employment and entrepreneurship.

Mobile shredding is popular as a startup or franchise business. The startup costs for a mobile shredding service, though significant, are less than that of many businesses, reports Entrepreneur Magazine. Part of the relative affordability is due to the fact that most shred truck manufacturers are willing to provide or arrange financing for the vehicles. Also, used shred trucks are often available for purchase for as little as $20,000 (for the oldest models), but more often $125,000 to $140,000. Once shredded, the paper can be sold for recycling purposes, adding another layer of profit to the business.

Some manufacturers sell shred trucks outright, while a few offer franchise opportunities. ProShred Security and Shred-it Inc. franchise. To buy in, you'll need money and no criminal record.

ProShred Security, for example, franchises into territories with populations of at least one million people. Some buy the rights to more than one territory. Franchisees undergo four weeks of training and get ongoing support along with special software, marketing materials and other benefits. The initial investment is in the range of $176,500 to $489,500 per territory, which includes a $35,000 franchise fee, 6.5 percent in royalties paid to ProShred and fees ranging from 1 percent to 3 percent for information technology support and a national advertising fund.

Shred-it Inc., founded in 1988 and headquartered in Oakville, Ontario, Canada, was one of the first shredding companies to franchise, yet more than half of its locations are company-owned.

Shred Alert, based in South Carolina, as founded in 2002 and is also franchising, with fees starting at $25,000 plus "gradual royalties."

Shred-Tech, which is based in Cambridge, Ontario, Canada, has been in business since 1978, and sells trucks outright or via a financing or leasing arrangement.

UltraShred, of Spokane Valley, Washington, also does not franchise but rather sells trucks outright and offers financing and startup support without a franchise arrangement.

Many companies provide training not only in using the shred trucks but on maintenance, document security, marketing and customer relations.

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