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In recent years, there’s been much discussion about companies making use of personal data: names, numbers, postcodes — as well as all the other identifying information that we unwittingly give away online. Though this may seem scary, there are rules in place to govern how this data can be handled. These procedures cover how information is obtained, stored, and disposed of — electronically or as confidential waste paper. 

Data protection is essential for both digitally and physically-held documents, in order to protect public privacy and prevent fraud. It’s paramount therefore that businesses comply with recommendations to correctly process and destroy sensitive information, practising proper disposal of their confidential waste. 

While disposing of regular everyday waste can be fairly straightforward, it can be tricky to know what counts as confidential waste, and where it should go. With that in mind, here’s everything you need to know about managing confidential waste for your business.

What is confidential waste?

Confidential waste is made up of discarded physical documents that contain individuals’ personal information. This may include, but is not limited to:

Employee data

  • CVs
  • ID scans
  • Employment records
  • Payroll information
  • Shift rotas
  • Appraisals and reports
  • Medical records

Customer data

  • Contact/delivery details
  • Order receipts
  • Printed correspondence


What are the laws regarding confidential waste?

Data Protection Act 1998

The Data Protection Act was introduced to uphold commercial data security, outlining the rules to govern personal data stored on computers and physically filed. Since the legislation was enforced, companies have had to take measures to ensure the safety of confidential documents, to uphold public privacy and mitigate the risk of data breaches. 

Notably, the act stipulates that companies must use a specialist confidential waste disposal service to manage their disposal of confidential waste paper.

Other measures may include:

  • Training employees in confidential data policy
  • Putting in place a plan of what to do if security breaches occur
  • Regularly destroying documents out of active use

Companies that choose not to comply with procedures risk a fine of up to £500,000, as well as further legal action.

General Data Protection Regulation (UK GDPR)

The 2018 EU GDPR legislation has been implemented in the UK and retained post-Brexit, with some amendments. GDPR recommends that a company provide a comprehensive audit trail for their confidential waste disposal, to track their process and ensure that all sensitive documentation is stored, transported, and disposed of securely.

GDPR also extends to electronically held data, subject to different rules for its destruction.


How should confidential waste be disposed of?

Once confidential documents are ready to be discarded, these should be stored in secure containers to be collected by a disposal service. From here, they can be transported to a facility that specialises in confidential waste shredding.

Shredding is a viable means to dispose of confidential documents as it renders printed text and details illegible. Standard bin disposal without shredding puts data privacy at risk, because bins awaiting collection are generally not secure and could be accessed by the public.

It’s an ambiguous area of the law as to whether somebody can legally go through your rubbish, as its lawfulness may depend on their claimed intent. Therefore, it’s best to safely store confidential waste until it can be picked up and disposed of by an appropriate service.


Is confidential waste management sustainable?

Yes — if done correctly. In many areas, shredded paper can only be recycled if collected by a dedicated recycling service. If you shred paper yourself, there’s a good chance that this won’t be recycled by your local waste collection team as their facilities can’t process it effectively.

How Bywaters can help

Bywaters offer a range of sustainable waste management solutions, including confidential waste management

We follow the disposal of your confidential waste paper from the moment it leaves your hands, providing specialised confidential bins which can securely lock in your waste documents. Once you’re ready for us, we’ll pick up these bins and drive them in our tracked low-emission vehicles to our confidential waste shredding facility. Our facility uses biometric scanning and a laser security system, to ensure that your sensitive data is protected at every step of its journey. Once it’s shredded, we send the paper waste on to our partners for recycling to be turned into high-quality paper products, and send you back a digital destruction certificate to document the process. 

By using our dedicated confidential waste management service, you can ensure that your sensitive documents are safely destroyed in accordance with legislation guidelines.

Read more about our sustainability efforts here, or get a quote for your waste management today.


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