1. The first paper shredding machine was patented by inventor Abbot Augustus Lowe in 1909. But his prototype never saw mass production — Lowe died only three years after patenting it.
2. In 1935, a German engineer named Adolf Ehinger created a second machine designed for paper shredding. He had to create it in a hurry: Its purpose was to shred hundreds of volumes of anti-Nazi propaganda before Hitler’s secret police could find them.
3. Paper shredding isn’t just something that happens in the office. Many firms’ need for document destruction is so great that they hire dedicated shredding companies to visit their offices with huge ten-wheel trucks with giant paper shredding machines mounted on the back.
4. Doctors and health insurance providers are legally tasked with document shredding duties. Because their patients’ and clients’ information is so sensitive, state and federal laws dictate that all medical organizations have comprehensive data-destruction plans.
5. The practice of paper shredding gained a questionable reputation in 1972, when President Nixon’s operatives shredded huge amounts of paperwork in an attempt to cover up the bungled attempt to burglarize the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate Hotel.
6. The biggest paper shredding machines on the market make your office shredder look like a plaything in comparison. Many of them eat just about anything, including (but probably not limited to) binder clips, rubber bands and hanging file folders. Do not anger these machines.
7. Because of state and federal laws aimed at preventing identity theft, paper shredding has grown into its very own industry. Many waste management companies have introduced document destruction into their service menus.
8. Paper shredding in the home saw a marked rise in popularity in 1988 — the year the United States Supreme Court ruled that personal trash became public property once it hit the curb.
9. Many document destruction services offer a “Certificate of Destruction” — a legal document that ensures that certain practices were followed in the destruction of documents, and that all of the documents were completely destroyed.
10. Paper shredding used to be all any business needed to worry about. But as digitally-stored information became more widespread, the need for specialized services to erase and destroy computer hard drives followed suit.
11. Like doctors and health insurance professionals, accountants are legally bound to adhere to certain document shredding standard. The Gramm-Leach Bliley Financial Modernization Act of 1993 outlined the measures that must be taken to destroy sensitive client information.
12. Iranian revolutionaries changed the way we approach paper shredding in 1979, when several of them stormed the American embassy and seized piles of shredded documents. Since the embassy’s shredders only cut paper into long, thin strips, it was simple for the revolutionaries to paste the documents back together to access the (highly secret) information they held. After this, cross-cut shredders became the norm.
13. According to a survey by the nonprofit Identity Theft Resource Center and Fellowes, Inc., many Americans believe identity theft is more likely to occur during online exchanges — even though online exchanges represent less than 10 percent of identity theft cases.
14. Some of the most technologically advanced shredding machines cut documents into pieces measuring just 3mm by 9mm.
15. The National Association for Information Destruction is the shredding industry’s nationally recognized trade association. It is headquartered in Phoenix, AZ.