Burning Documents: Bad for more than the Environment

You need an inexpensive and effective way to destroy your confidential documents. Why not burn them? After all, fire is essentially free. The paper would serve as the fuel so all you would need is a match and an open space away from other flammable hazards (buildings, dry grass, trees).

There a number of reasons why this would be a bad idea.  The first is the environmental impact.  The smoke from fires contributes to the green house gases (GHG) which in turn contribute to the global warming phenomenon. Compounding this issue is the amount of paper you will likely be burning at one time, as well as what kind of paper it is. If there are plastic or vinyl folders mixed in, which are common, the smoke can actually become toxic.  There are also different grades of paper and different forms of ink used in printing. In the end, you just don’t know what you might be burning.

A second environmental impact is the waste of paper. By burning your documents you eliminate any possibility of recycling taking place. You may as well just burn down a tree or two.

I realize that not everyone reading this gives a hoot about the environment. Your primary concern is for your company and ensuring that proprietary information does not get into the wrong hands. If burning your confidential documents is the best option, then that is what you will do.

Ignoring the possible fines your company could be levied with for burning documents, let’s examine the non-environmental issues surrounding this disposal strategy: How do fires work? The fuel (paper) is set ablaze and broken down into two primary components, smoke and ash. No proprietary information remains with the smoke, so you’re good there.

What about the ashes? Planning to sort through the entire pile to ensure no pages survived the fire? No portions of pages? What about the small pieces that escape the fire and inevitably float away on the wind? Intending to chase those down?

The point is fires are an uncontrollable force. They are influenced by the fuel they are burning as well as the environment they are burning within. Wind, rain and temperature can all influence how the fire burns. When dealing with the destruction of your company’s confidential documents do you really want to leave anything to chance?

While burning your documents may be cheaper, can you really put a price tag on piece of mind? Shredding your documents is by far the safest and most environmentally friendly means of disposing of proprietary information. Your confidential documents are destroyed, nothing is left to chance and the only environmental impact, paper recycling, is a positive one. Perhaps most importantly, your conscience is clear.