Records Reduction

Can You Shred Laminated Documents?

Can You Shred Laminated Paper

Shredding documents is often necessary to free up storage space but could also be a legal necessity because of a contractual term or data protection legislation. Now, what about laminated paper? Is the shredder up to the task, and what are the implications for recycling?

Not all shredders can destroy laminated documents. Shredding these could blunt the cutting blades or even damage the machine. Some shredders are designed only to shred regular-sized paper. In addition, laminating film is not recyclable, so laminated documents should not be shredded purely for recycling purposes.

Why would you want to shred laminated documents in the first place? The three primary reasons for shredding paper are:

  • for ease of recycling, or 
  • you need to prevent anyone else from reading the information it contains, or
  • you don’t want the document itself to be used for any illegal purpose, such as identity theft. 

What Is Laminated Paper Exactly?

Laminated paper is coated with laminating film made from various plastic types, like polyethylene or PET, with an adhesive on one surface. The adhesive is bonded to the paper using heat or high pressure. Therefore, a laminated document is not a purely paper product and, if anything, should be treated as plastic for recycling purposes.

Even if your domestic shredder can shred laminated documents, it is not recommended that you do so because of the potential to damage the cutter blades, which could become blunted. Shredding laminated documents could also jam the machine.

Shredding For Recycling Purposes

Lamination film is not recyclable. Only paper without a coating should be put into the paper recycling container. When the paper goes through the recycling process, it is pulped in a machine like a large blender that mixes it with water to soften it and further break it down.   Plastic is recycled in a completely different process that uses heat because plastic does not break down when mixed with water. 

When paper is laminated, the plastic film adheres to the paper fibers, and it melts into them. This makes it difficult to separate the film from the paper in the recycling process. Any paper that is coated in plastic, wax, or foil cannot be recycled. If you want to recycle laminated paper, you will have to peel off the laminating film before destroying it. 

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Shredding For Information Security Purposes

Suppose you want to shred documents containing highly sensitive information, such as blueprints, financial records, bills, or customer data. In that case, a cross-cut or micro-cut shredder will do the trick. The normal strip-cut shredder won’t do in this case. Some of these high-security shredders that reduce the paper to very fine pieces may not handle laminated documents well. 

If you put a laminated document through a high-security shredder, it could damage the cutting blades. Stronger shredders can shred plastic credit cards, CDs, and even paper clips and staples. This kind of shredder may be able to handle laminated documents. However, unless your shredder is a model specifically designed for this, you should not put these items through it.

When you are shredding documents to make them impossible to read, it is the information on them that you want to destroy rather than the paper itself. If this is the case, then an ordinary strip cut shredder is not the best solution because a determined person can reassemble the strips and read the information. 

If the document is laminated, reassembling the shredded strips may be even easier as the shredder does not tear the laminating film off the paper. Suppose the shredded laminated document is the only one amongst a pile of other shredded non-laminated paper. In that case, it will be child’s play to pick out the strips of the laminated document from the others.

Shredding To Prevent Re-Use Of the Document

Perhaps your purpose for shredding a laminated document is to prevent it from being re-used. For instance, you might have laminated a copy of your degree certificate or your marriage certificate and now wish to dispose of it. Hopefully, you have not laminated the originals! 

You may want to destroy your expired laminated driver’s license or your deceased mother’s birth certificate. Any piece of paper that can be used to steal an identity, or create a false one, should be thoroughly destroyed. It is not so much because the information is confidential but because you do not want the document used for nefarious purposes.

This is why laminating such documents is not a good idea. You may need to shred them eventually, but you can’t because the shredder is not designed for it. A cross-cut shredder is recommended for the destruction of important documents so they can be reduced to confetti. If the document is laminated, you may not be able to shred it using this type of shredder. 

The Different Purposes Of Shredders

Shredders are sold with various security ratings depending on how well the documents you put through them must be destroyed. This rating is an industry-standard called the P-level, which specifies how many pieces are generated when cutting an A4-sized piece of paper. The higher the P-level, the greater the number of pieces and the higher the security rating.

Cross-cut shredders, sometimes called confetti shredders, reduce a document into many more pieces than the more common strip-cut shredders. The latter shred the paper into strips that can be easily reassembled and so are not secure. 

Micro-cut shredders are the most secure of all because the shredded documents are virtually impossible to reassemble. 

High-security shredders such as cross-cut shredders and micro-cut shredders may not be able to shred laminated documents, and you could end up damaging an expensive piece of equipment if you try. Lightweight home and office shredders should only be used to shred regular sheets of paper. 

It depends on your machine’s model, and you should always check the user manual before putting something other than regular paper through the shredder.

Continuous shredding of large numbers of documents can cause the shredder to overheat and may cause the laminating film to melt in extreme situations. This can seriously damage the shredder. 

Official Or Confidential Documents Should Not Be Laminated

Documents that contain highly confidential information will not, and should not, be laminated. It is harder to destroy laminated paper. Laminating can also flatten important seals or security stamps and damage other features of official documents, and so, for this reason, it is not recommended for such documents.

It is also not a good idea to laminate official documents because many authorities will not accept them due to the risk of duplication or forgery. Laminating an official piece of paper can alter it to the extent that it is no longer an official document, and its authenticity may be compromised.

The kind of document you would laminate is one that is frequently consulted, such as a diagram, map, building plan, or menu. Such a document is highly unlikely to contain sensitive information, so there is no reason why you would want to shred it other than to fit it into a garbage bag more easily. 

How To Dispose of Laminated Documents

Laminated documents should be disposed of in the regular trash. Do not put them into paper recycling bags or bins. Use scissors to reduce them to smaller pieces if necessary. 

Always check the shredder manual to see if it can shred laminated paper or plastic. Incorrect use will invalidate the manufacturer’s warranty. If the manual says nothing about shredding laminated paper, it is better to play it safe and not shred it.

If laminated documents contain sensitive information, you should delaminate them before shredding them. If they still have a lot of adhesive attached to them after you have removed the laminating sheets, it would be better to burn them or dissolve them in a mixture of water and bleach rather than risk jamming up the shredder.

If you have many laminated documents you need to destroy for security reasons, Records Reduction shredding services in Charlotte, NC uses industrial-strength shredders that can dispose of them for you. Do not dispose of laminated papers by burning them because burning plastics give off noxious fumes and pollute the air.

In Conclusion

Do not laminate documents containing sensitive or confidential information. It is harder to destroy them safely. Laminated documents cannot be recycled, so if you want to shred them purely for recycling purposes, don’t bother.

Need Shredding Services in Charlotte, NC

Records Reduction has been providing paper scanning, offsite storage, and shredding services to organizations in Charlotte and the SE United States since 1997. Our philosophy is great prices, better service! We do that by maintaining a lean organization and using the latest technology to keep our prices low which makes the process easy for you.


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