Can I Burn My Sensitive Documents Instead?

Document Shredding and Destruction
Last updated
March 21, 2024

At Secure Records Solutions, we occasionally encounter businesses and individuals that use alternative methods to shredding for disposing of confidential information. The practice of burning documents with sensitive information in lieu of shredding is the option we most often hear about. Burning paper poses fire risks, personal data breach dangers, environmental hazards, and in some cases it is illegal.

While burning your sensitive documents may be tempting and seem like an uncomplicated way of doing things, you might want to think twice and consider these four risks before taking part in this activity. 

1. Risk of Personal Data Leak

Burning sensitive documentBurning records is certainly less secure, but also peskier than you might anticipate. Believe it or not, paper does not catch fire and burn as easily as you would think. It also requires a certain amount of effort and time to procure and prepare records for burning. Even after going through and ripping all the documents into small pieces prior to setting fire to them, it still is not guaranteed that all your information will be completely destroyed. If the paper is not torn into small enough pieces, the ashes left behind may still contain readable information. All it takes is for the wrong person to stumble upon those ashes to steal your privileged information. 

When you shred your confidential documents with a NAID-certified shredding facility like SRS, we do all the work. Our trained drivers are accustomed to cleaning out basements, attics, and storage units. You just unlock the door or point us in the right direction, and we will handle the rest. Secure Records Solutions also provides a certificate of destruction so you can rest assured that your information has been securely and properly destroyed. 

2. Negative Environmental Impacts

Pollution smokePaper, like almost everything else nowadays, contains plastic. Dangerous fumes are released and pollute the air when paper is burned. These fumes are toxic for people and animals to inhale. If the burning is done outside, there is still more damage to be done after the fact. The residue leftover from burning documents can runoff resulting in the contamination of soil and water in surrounding areas posing even more environmental dangers. 

When you shred your sensitive records with SRS, you make a positive impact on the environment. Instead of polluting the air with toxic fumes and creating dangerous residual runoff, you’re recycling. In fact, last year, we recycled 3.7 million pounds of paper which prevented 3,601 metric tons of C02 from being produced. That is equivalent to taking 2,707 cars off the road for one year! Burning the same amount of paper would have polluted the air with 1,270 metric tons of carbon dioxide. Read more about the positive impacts working with us has on the environment in our 2021 Sustainability Report. 

3. Fire Hazards

When burning paper outside, you might think you are safe if you burn it in a barrel or firepit but think about the wind and other natural elements. When you burn paper, the embers tend to get caught in the wind and carried away. To start a wildfire, all that needs to happen is for one of those embers to land on something flammable, which is practically everything outdoors. 

Burn barrelIn Colorado of 2002, one of the state’s largest wildfires was started by someone burning a single letter in a firepit. The Hayman Fire burned more than 138,000 acres (about half the area of San Antonio, Texas) and 600 structures causing $42 million in housing losses. 

Many people also turn to their fireplace or wood burning stove to burn sensitive documents. However, chimney flues are not meant to be able to handle burning paper. When paper starts burning, it creates a bigger flame than wood does. If those flames reach high enough into the chimney to encounter creosote, it is likely to cause a fire in your chimney which could result in a housefire. 

Avoid predicaments like this along with the hefty fines or even jail time accompanied by them by choosing to safely and securely shred your documents instead. Secure Records Solutions offers one-time purge shredding or scheduled shredding services. 

4. Burn Restrictions and Legality

high fire danger roadside signSome areas and states either do not allow open-air burning or the burning of household garbage, or they have strict rules against it during certain parts of the year. This is especially true in dry environments due to the risk of wildfires. If you decide to burn, always be sure to check your local laws and contact local officials to find out if it is legal and not too dry to burn in your area. 

We Have the Solution!  

Burning is simply not a viable option. Shredding documents is safe and responsible. When you shred your confidential information, you are also recycling and helping reduce waste and carbon emissions. Secure Records Solutions is NAID (National Association for Information Destruction) certified, so you can rest assured we will hold the destruction of your data to the highest standard. You will receive a certificate of destruction once we are finished, guaranteeing the security of your confidential information. Contact us today to learn about our one-time purge and scheduled shredding options. No fire extinguishers required. 

What’s Challenging You?

Do you have a document management challenge that's been keeping you up at night? Whether it's a specific issue or a broader concern, our team loves a good challenge and we’re eager to hear from you.
Call an SRS Consultant today at
1-800-614-0856 or complete this form and let us put our expertise to work for you.

Start the Conversation

Start the Conversation