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The Evolution Of The Shredder

Paper shredder

The office shredder is one of those things that many people consider as just office equipment. Yet this simple machine is what stands between many individuals and businesses and the possibility of identity fraud. The shredder has become an incredibly important element in office security for any business, but have you ever wondered how the humble paper shredder came to be?

The Birth of The Shredder

Before the invention of the paper shredder there was still a need to destroy paper, especially if it contained important or dangerous information. Because there was no other way to destroy the tough paper, these documents were often burnt. For example, during the Second World War governments burned all papers, books and documents that contained sensitive information. There are numerous accounts of soldiers burning documents that contained intelligence about their operations so that it could not be passed on to their enemies, and often books and papers were burnt as an act of barbarism or conquer. For a long time this was the only option for effectively destroying paper.

The idea for the very first paper shredder can be traced back to 1909, when Abbot Augustus Low filed for a patent on his invention, the ‘waste paper receptacle’, which was designed to improve the method of disposing of waste paper. However, Low’s invention was never actually manufactured – it was all just theory. The first physical shredder was invented and manufactured in Germany by Adolf Ehinger in 1935. He based his design on a hand pasta maker and he invented it as a way of destroying his anti-Nazi propaganda to avoid inquiries from the authorities. After the war, Ehinger was able to market and sell his shredders to government agencies and financial institutions who were looking to switch from the hand crank to electric motor as a way of destroying confidential documents. Government agencies soon deemed the use of strip-cut shredders essential for the destruction of important files.  In 1959 Ehinger’s company (EBA Maschinenfabrik) manufactured the first cross cut paper shredder, a system that the same company still produces to this day.

The Modern Shredding Solution

Until the mid 1980’s it was very rare for paper shredders to be used by anyone who wasn’t a government entity. It wasn’t until the US Supreme Court ruled that it wasn’t illegal to search and seize rubbish left for collection outside the home that paper shredders became popular with home users.  This came at a time when anti-burning advocates groups concerned about the environment were rising in popularity, along with the heightened awareness of identity theft and proper rubbish disposal. This resulted in thousands of home owners and private citizens rushing to get their own paper shredding machines at home.

Now of course, shredders have become a commonplace item, and there is more than one method available to us. Strip cut has begun to fall out of favour, criticised for it’s lack of security, and cross cut has become the most popular option for home users. For industrial shredders, there are also particle cutters (which shred paper to confetti sizes pieces), disintegrators, hammermills, piece-and-tear and grinders, all of which can reduce a piece of A4 to dust.

The humble office shredder has been around for over 80 years and it has undergone a series of evolutions to become the efficient machine we know today. But this is just part of the story. To find out how shredding has evolved from home to industrial shredding and given life to shredding as a service, stay tuned for next months’ blog. And remember, if you need some documents shredded for you, or would just like to know more about our shredding machines, get in touch today to find out more.