What Is Confidential Waste Disposal?

3 mins read

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Discover the importance of Confidential Waste Disposal. Learn how you can safeguard your sensitive information effectively, comply with GDPR and much more.

What Is Confidential Waste Disposal?

Manage business waste collection and disposal

It could be information relating to finances, health, or protected characteristics. Most businesses will have waste that has been treated with a degree of confidentiality. Whether your company is in retail, legal, health or finance, you will likely already be producing paperwork that needs to be treated extra carefully when you’re getting rid of it.

The law determines what you can keep, how long you can keep it, and even how it is to be disposed of when you no longer need it, and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) overhaul of 2018 was the biggest reform to data protection law in two decades. Fines for a data breach have been stepped up with this law. When you add that financial loss to the reputational damage that comes from what would be considered a data breach, it becomes easy to see why this is a subject that should be taken very seriously.

The Importance of Confidential Waste Disposal

The risks that come with a failure to properly dispose of confidential waste are various. The Data Protection Act 2018 is the UK’s implementation of GDPR, an update to the 1998 Act which brought our laws back up to speed in an era during which ever more amounts of data are being collected.

There are three main risks to mishandling sensitive data:


Under the 2018 Act, the maximum amount that a company can be fined is £17.5 million or 4% of the total annual worldwide turnover in the preceding financial year, whichever is higher.

Legal & Regulatory

Breaching the Data Protection Act 2018 is a criminal offence, and could in theory end up landing you in political hot water. Arguably the bigger direct risk is regulatory. Trade bodies often require adherence to the law as a precursor to membership, and serious legal breaches could see valuable trade body memberships getting ripped up too.


It’s fairly simple. Neither consumers nor suppliers are likely to want to give confidential information to any organisation that they don’t believe can be trusted with it. Data breaches regularly make news headlines and can have a serious adverse effect on your business.

Regulations and Compliance

The 2018 Data Protection Act states that “Everyone responsible for using personal data has to follow strict rules called ‘data protection principles’. They must make sure the information is:

  • used fairly, lawfully and transparently

  • used for specified, explicit purposes

  • used in a way that is adequate, relevant and limited to only what is necessary

  • accurate and, where necessary, kept up-to-date

  • kept for no longer than is necessary

  • handled in a way that ensures appropriate security, including protection against unlawful or unauthorised processing, access, loss, destruction or damage

There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as:

  • race

  • ethnic background

  • political opinions

  • religious beliefs

  • trade union membership

  • genetics

  • biometrics (where used for identification)

  • health

  • sex life or orientation

There are separate safeguards for personal data relating to criminal convictions and offences. Other industries have their own regulations. Those who’ve dealt with American healthcare companies may already be familiar with, for example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) as well as other industry-specific guidelines which stretch beyond confidentiality, while the Financial Ombudsman Service may mediate complaints over data breaches.

Methods of Confidential Waste Disposal

There are several ways in which you can dispose of your confidential waste.


Shredding is a common way to destroy paper documents and is usually quick, easy and cost-effective. Many retailers sell shredders for use within offices or other premises, enabling you to shred and dispose of the documents yourself. If possible, consider recycling your shredded documents, as long as you can do this without leaving the data easily available to others during that time.

Destruction by Incineration

Destruction by incineration is the most complete and reliable method for highly sensitive documents and papers and guarantees secure destruction, but it comes at a cost to the environment from the incineration process, and at a point when businesses are seeking to become more ecologically aware.

Removing or Deleting from Electronic Devices

These days, waste paper isn’t nearly as much of an issue as it used to be, but electronic devices can cause even greater headaches. When removing or deleting data from them, you need to be aware that electronic systems can have backups or background storage. This may mean that information is still held for a certain period of time, even after you think you’ve deleted it.

When you delete data electronically with the intention of destroying it, you need to make sure it’s no longer usable by you or anyone else. You shouldn’t be able to access or use the data after you’ve deleted it, such as through your recycle bin. Often, digital systems will hold onto data in your bin until it’s automatically replaced or overwritten. It is advisable to engage the services of a professional for deleting data from an electronic device.

Benefits of Using Professional Confidential Waste Disposal Services

There are clear advantages to using a professional waste disposal service, including the following:

  • Enhanced security - confidential data can be kept secure

  • Compliance with regulations such as GDPR

  • Cost efficiency

  • Environmental responsibility - can help you with achieving your sustainability goals

  • Time and energy savings

  • An audit trail, including being provided with a certificate of destruction

  • They can destroy more than just paper

  • Helps streamline processes - freeing up your time to do what you do best

Choosing a Reliable Confidential Waste Disposal Provider

There are several important factors to take into account when choosing a confidential waste disposal provider;

  • What’s their reputation like?

  • Can they demonstrate that they understand laws, especially in relation to your specific industry?

  • Have their staff been fully security checked in accordance with the BS7858 standard?

  • Do they offer additional services, such as data security risk assessment surveys?

It is extremely important that whoever you deal with has a full understanding of the certifications they require, has a good track record, and can adhere strictly to data protection laws when dealing with your confidential waste.

Dealing with your confidential waste is critical to the successful running of any business. The penalties for failing to do so can be extremely high, and it can prove to be a false economy with a very high price attached to believing that data leaks and data loss can only ever happen to other companies. Making informed choices and taking positive action is part of being a responsible business owner, and SwitchPal can help you find the ideal partner.

Manage business waste collection and disposal

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