Start a Document Shredding Business

By Eric Hammer

Look at any website or book on personal finance and one of the very first things they’ll suggest is that you purchase a cross cut shredder to destroy all sensitive documents. These things work great when you have a small amount of material that needs to be shredded, but what about a business? For business needs, you can supply them with secure document destruction with a document shredding business.

The way it works is that you come by and pick up documents that need to be destroyed. The documents are loaded on to your truck and carted away to a separate facility where they are run through your industrial level shredders to destroy them utterly. This way, the business has their secrets protected while you get to make a tidy profit on the deal.

Now you may be asking why the business wouldn’t simply purchase a shredder for the office and cut you out of the loop. The answer is simple – cost and convenience. The kind of equipment you can bring to bear would destroy thousands of documents in a matter of minutes whereas it would take hours or days to destroy those same documents using the average office shredding machine. Not to mention cost – time is money after all and the time employees spend standing over the shredder is time they aren’t spending doing their jobs and earning the company money.

How Much Can You Make?

As with most businesses that you run on your own how much you can make from a document shredding business depends on your own initiative at getting regular contracts from businesses like banks, hospitals and government agencies who regularly have need to shred documents. Typical rates for shredding services (which usually charge by the pound) range from around $1-$4 per pound depending on a number of factors, including the security of the destruction (is it a standard crosscut or confetti cut, are the documents secured by armed guards and transported in armored trucks en route, etc.). Therefore, you need to get some serious volume in order to make a living at this. However, in major urban areas there is definitely a need and you can do quite well for yourself.

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In addition to basic off site shredding services, some document destruction companies also offer mobile shredding services where they will come by with a truck with industrial shredders in the back of the truck hooked up to a generator. The documents are then shredded on site, minimizing security risks.

Another option is to offer a burn service where documents, after being shredded are burned to ashes. This is commonly used for top secret government documents since they don’t want to risk the possibility of even confetti shredding being able to be reassembled by hostile entities.

Finally, you can also make money from recycling the paper that your shred. If you aren’t burning the documents, they can be transported, already shredded to a paper recycling facility that may pay for the raw material from you to be recycled (or you could recycle the paper yourself).

The key to this business is integrity and price. You will not last long in the document shredding business if you develop a reputation for letting some documents slip through which then reveal critical information. However, even if you offer perfect integrity and security, you will also be competing against other companies vying for the same contracts so you need to keep costs down as much as possible.

Qualifications / Requirements

There are no formal requirements to set up a document shredding business; however you do need to purchase the equipment, which can be expensive. Expect to spend anywhere from $10,000-$50,000 in start up costs in order to create your document destruction business.

First Steps

Start by taking inventory of your home town. Look realistically at how many places there are that might require bulk document destruction services. Places like banks, investment houses, hospitals, busy doctor clinics and government offices are all places that will likely use such a service. Schools also may have need of such a service when they clear old records.


BPlans: Sample Document Shredding Business Plan – This is a really good resource which provides a sample business plan for a document destruction company. It goes through all the requirements that such a company may have and allows you to really see what you’ll need to do in order to make your own business successful.

All About Shredders: Starting a Mobile Shredding Business – This is a good start on the idea of offering mobile shredding solutions as opposed to off site shredding.

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