BLOG – GDPR and secure data destruction: how to protect your business

Devon Contract Waste's secure data destruction collection vehicle with driver

Did you know that, according to a recent report from Ponemon Institute, 28% of data breaches are caused by employee error?

This might involve something as simple as leaving information on printers, not keeping data in locked cabinets, or hanging onto old hard drives.

This type of statistic should be particularly concerning as we come closer to the arrival of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR): a new EU legal framework that will come into effect on 25 May 2018. Many years in the making, the GDPR will be the first major step change in UK data protection legislation since 1998. The new regulation is an evolution of existing law, taking into account our digitised world and creating several new rights for individuals in relation to their personal data. The GDPR will also toughen up penalties for data breaches which could now reach up to €20 million or 4% of a firm’s global turnover, whichever is greater.

Secure data destruction is a critical element of every data protection strategy. We take a look at how managing your confidential waste can protect your organisation from the financial, legal and reputational risk of a data breach.

Data security

Article 5 of the GDPR states that information must be “processed in a manner that ensures appropriate security of the personal data, including protection against unauthorised or unlawful processing and against accidental loss, destruction or damage, using appropriate technical or organisational measures”.

In simple terms, this means you must take steps to ensure that the personal data your company holds can’t be accessed by anyone who shouldn’t have access, that it is kept safe, and that it is destroyed in such a way that it can’t be put back together.

This reflects the Seventh Principle of the Data Protection Act 1998 so is not a great surprise. But in terms of data destruction, there are two key differences under the GDPR:

  • Individuals now have a ‘right to be forgotten’ – except in certain exempt cases, people can ask an organisation to delete or destroy all information it holds about them;
  • Information may only be held for as long as necessary to deliver the purpose for which it was originally processed.

With potentially crippling penalties on the horizon, now is the time to take steps to ensure your data destruction process is fit for purpose.

What to do next

A good starting point is to carry out an audit of the types of personal data you process and how they are stored. Personal data is any “information relating to an identified or identifiable natural person” and could include invoices, quotes, emails, medical records, training documents, notebooks, post-its and more. Record how this information is held – is it on paper, electronic or cloud-based?

Consider whether your organisation would benefit from a data cleanse before GDPR comes into effect. If you have archived data waiting to be shredded, now is the time to tackle the backlog.

Work with your senior team to update your data destruction policy and train all staff to follow it. If you have a clear desk policy, ensure employees understand it fully. If you decide to take a ‘shred all’ approach to paperwork, ensure you have enough secure receptacles in convenient positions to encourage compliance.

Bringing in help

Internally shredding documents can be time-consuming and, of course, doesn’t take care of your electronic data such as hard drives, CD-ROMs and even the odd floppy discs you might still have. A third party provider can ease the headache of secure data destruction, but there are a few key questions to ask to ensure your organisation is protected from risk:

  • Does the provider have a waste carrier license?
  • What steps does the provider take to secure the data when it is removed from your premises?
  • Does the provider issue a certificate of destruction for your records?
  • Are the providers’ employees vetted and do they sign a confidentiality agreement?
  • Is the provider compliant with relevant standards such as EN15713?

Devon Contract Waste is licensed by the Environmental Agency and offers secure data destruction under EN15713 (Secure Destruction). Our DBS-checked employees and secure vehicles ensure your data remains confidential until it is destroyed, when a certificate of destruction is issued.

When the GDPR comes into effect on 25 May 2018, organisations will be expected to be fully compliant immediately. For help ensuring that your data destruction is secure and compliant, contact us for a no obligation quote today.

BLOG – Recycling: it’s worth it

Graphic of numerous products being placed in recycling containers

Recycling is the process of turning materials into new items. Recycling is part of the waste management hierarchy which provides a structure for minimising how much waste ends up in landfill sites.

Recycling often involves collecting used items and processing them to clean and separate the component materials. The separate materials can then be used for a whole range of purposes: plastic bottles can come back to life as clothing; aluminium cans turn up in aeroplane parts; paper yoghurt pots can transform into toothbrushes.

This National Recycling Week (25 September – 1 October), we want to tell you why we believe passionately that recycling is worth it.

Save energy

Manufacturing new items uses a large amount of energy. Recycling requires much less. For example, forming new aluminium from bauxite ore needs much more energy than creating items from aluminium that has already been made. Every tonne of aluminium that we recycle saves 210kWh of electricity and 2.5 million BTUs (British Thermal Units) of energy. Some recycled materials, such as paper, are even more energy efficient. For every tonne of paper we recycle, we save 1845kWh hours of electricity and 24 million BTUs of energy.

Producing energy creates pollutants that usually end up in our atmosphere in the form of CO2 and other – sometimes more toxic – gases that contribute to global warming. Because recycling uses less energy than making new materials, it also means less pollution is produced. For example, by recycling one tonne of paper instead of making new paper, we prevent 12kg of pollutants entering the atmosphere.

Protect our environment

Recycling materials reduces the likelihood that they will end up in our environment where they cause harm. There are 9 billion tonnes of plastic in the world and more than 8 million tonnes of it ends up in our oceans every year. Plastic litter not only looks unsightly, but it can harm – and even kill – wildlife when it is swallowed or creatures become trapped. Items such as bottles, fishing nets and even the micro beads in your face wash can all end up in the sea.

By collecting our waste for recycling, we can help to ensure that is it handled responsibly and not allowed to make its way into our environment.

Prolong scarce resources

Many of the materials we use in manufacturing are from natural sources and so are in limited supply. Raw materials such as oil and metal ores will not last forever. One day they will run out because nature cannot form them as fast as we use them.

Recycling makes use of materials that have already been manufactured, which greatly reduces our reliance on these precious resources. For example, every tonne of recycled plastic saves 4 barrels of oil compared to manufacturing new plastics. Oil and other fossil fuels are also used to produce energy. Since recycling uses less energy than making new materials, it saves even more natural resources.

Preserve our planet

All of the benefits that recycling offers are crucial to help preserve our environment. By prolonging the availability of natural resources, reducing pollution and protecting wildlife, we can preserve our planet for future generations.

If we all do our little bit to recycle the things we use, we can make a big collective difference. We hope you agree that recycling is the right thing to do – and it’s worth it.

BLOG – Waste to Energy: how it compares to recycling

Waste to Energy (WtE) has seen a surge in popularity in the UK and internationally in recent years as a way of bridging the gap between recycling and landfill. Once materials that can be recycled have been removed from the waste stream, WtE provides a further way to process the remaining waste instead of directing it straight to landfill. While Devon Contract Waste supports any initiative that reduces the amount of waste reaching landfill, we believe it’s important to look at the total impact of WtE and how it compares to recycling.

Where WtE comes in

Under the EU Waste Framework Directive the UK must apply the waste hierarchy:

  • Reduce – cut down on the amount of waste we produce
  • Re-use – use items more than once whenever possible
  • Recycle – process waste items into re-useable materials
  • Recover – waste contains energy that can be unlocked and used
  • Dispose – final remaining waste is usually sent to landfill

Devon Contract Waste operates at the Recycle stage – sorting and processing waste materials into separate streams that can be re-used. WtE is part of the Recovery stage of the hierarchy. WtE plants use waste as fuel, instead of fossil fuels, to heat water that produces steam, which drives turbines to generate electricity.

WtE is the final stage of our own Zero to Landfill process. Once all recyclables have been sorted for onward processing, around 42% of our collected waste is sent for incineration to generate energy. WtE plays an important role in waste management but we believe strongly that it should be our last resort in the management of waste and we should always aim to recycle more to reduce the amount of waste that will be burned.

High cost / low volume

WtE plants are complex facilities that are expensive to build compared to a recycling centre – or materials recovery facility (MRF). Exeter’s WtE plant was built to process 65,000 tonnes of waste per year at a cost of £45 million. A typical materials recovery facility (MRF) with a processing capacity of 250,000 tonnes per year would cost around £11 million and would generally recover around 58% of materials for recycling, before the remainder was processed for WtE. In terms of the capability of each process to divert waste from landfill, recycling materials is more economical, and more efficient.

Energy efficiency

The energy produced by WtE plants most commonly generates electricity for homes but cogeneration plants can also provide heat for nearby businesses. Each tonne of waste processed generates around 500kWh of electricity which is enough to power 15 average households for a day. However, depending on the materials being processed, it could be more energy efficient to recycle. For example, recycling one tonne of aluminium (instead of making it from raw materials) saves 14,000kWh – enough electricity to power those same 15 households for four weeks.

Impact on recycling rates

Ideally, before waste reaches a WtE plant, all recyclables should have been removed. Not only for the efficiency we outlined above, but because less carbon-rich recyclable material in the waste mix (eg cardboard, plastic, metals and wood) means less CO2 output when the waste is burned. Some argue that the presence of WtE plants may discourage recycling, particularly among domestic households. Increased levels of these carbon-rich materials in the WtE fuel will mean more CO2 emissions. The link between WtE facilities and recycling rates hasn’t been proven but it remains an important consideration in planning a waste programme.

Polluting outputs

WtE produces less CO2 compared to the equivalent production of new materials. It also avoids the release of methane – another greenhouse gas – that would otherwise seep from landfill sites. But the incineration of waste releases a great number of toxic gases and substances which must be tightly controlled. Acidic gases such as nitrogen oxide must be neutralised, and toxic mercury must be removed. WtE is also not 100% efficient at processing its fuel, producing a final ash deposit which is usually sent to landfill.

Sustainability in the UK

Only certain types of waste are suitable for WtE processing which means that the availability of this fuel is an important consideration in a WtE programme. With many WtE plants already operating in the UK, capacity is outstripping the available fuel. UK WtE plants are importing waste from other countries in order to remain sustainable. While this is clearly preferable to simply sending the waste to landfill in the country of origin, the carbon miles travelled by thousands of tonnes of waste rather defeats the object. Sweden, for instance, is importing around 800,000 tonnes of waste per year, generating enormous quantities of CO2. We don’t feel that the UK should be contributing to this when we have an opportunity to invest in better recycling.

What does the future hold?

There is no straightforward answer to striking the right balance between recycling and WtE. As long as we continue to produce waste that cannot be recycled, WtE provides an energy efficient alternative to landfill disposal, despite its downsides. What remains critical is ensuring that our national recycling effort is maximised to reprocess as many materials as we can, in turn ensuring WtE is as efficient as possible, and landfill sites are consigned to the history books.