Thinking of shredding or burning paper? Here’s what you should now
So you finally notice that growing stack of paper documents cluttering your home and decide to do something about it. Because they contain sensitive and confidential information, you consider either shredding them or burning them. Great! You’re off to a great start in optimising your data privacy and those of others included in your documents.
Every organisation should be reminded that when a document contains personal data, it should be disposed properly under the PDPA. This is because incorrect disposal of documents containing personal data is subject to PDPA regulations. With improper disposal comes with a risk of data breach which can be penalized by the PDPC up to S$1,000,000.
In the case of SLF Green Maid Agency, the organisation was found to be in breach of the PDPA as its employee reused the back portion of a piece of paper containing personal data. Luckily, the PDPC only gave directions for it not to happen again.
While shredding or burning paper may seem like a simple task, the considerations you should undertake before doing so are anything but that. In this article, we will examine some practical guidelines to consider as you move toward getting rid of those sensitive documents.
Whether you are shredding or burning paper, safety should come first
On shredding paper
It goes without saying that when safety is concerned, shredding documents is always the better route. For one, you can do it easily in the comforts of your home or workspace. You don’t have to worry about accidentally burning the house down. For another, you do not have to concern yourself with community rules on burning (or even rules on properly disposing of personal data in general).
All you have to is get yourself a sturdy document shredder and you’re all good to go! In case you missed it, we wrote about factors to consider if you’re off buying a paper shredder.
On burning paper
If between shredding or burning paper you choose to go for the latter, prepare yourself for a whole lot of guidelines. Before we get there though, have you thought about where you’re going to do the deed? Make sure you have the proper space and permission before proceeding with the task. Now on to the guidelines!
Timing is the key
Make sure that you select a calm day to burn documents. You don’t want the wind to interrupt your plans or fan the flame to uncontrollable proportions. Imagine if you have neighbours living close by, who have to deal with your smoke and flying burning documents!
Also, check the weather forecast if it’s going to rain. Think about how frustrating it will be for you to keep restarting the fire just because the rain decided to keep you company.
Heed precautionary measures
Better be paranoid than sorry! Don’t forget to arm yourself with a fire extinguisher just in case the unthinkable happens. Also, make sure the area is clear of any other flammable material such as firewood, or a can of oil.
One pro tip shared online is to build a perimeter around the fire, such as sand or stones. The last thing you want to see is fire that’s spreading to other areas.
Don’t add plastic in the mix
Make sure that you’re burning only ordinary paper and remove those glossy magazines and newspaper inserts, or paper that’s covered with a thin film of plastic. A hint of plastic material might emit dangerous fumes and you surely don’t want to see that!
Keep your eyes on the fire
You might be tempted to sneak in and watch the first few minutes of your favourite Netflix show. But no, once you’ve started putting the documents in the fire, you have to stay there and keep watch. The best practice is to start with the driest papers as these are easy to burn, then you go with the smallest ones.
Collection and disposal of the ash
Once you’re done burning all those papers, poke the debris just to make sure there are no unburnt pieces of papers left in there. Then, collect the ash and dispose of properly.
Final thoughts on shredding or burning paper
Bottom line, you want to get rid of sensitive documents in a way that will not compromise your data privacy.
Regarding this, shredding paper is the safer way to go about disposing your confidential papers and documents. However, if your community rules allow it and you have the space to do so, then by all means you do you and go burn those documents. Only make sure to check out the safety guidelines before you do so.