Classified Waste Paper Disposal Practices

LCD-78-104: Published: Dec 2, 1977. Publicly Released: Dec 2, 1977.

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Classified waste disposal requires destroying government documents to prevent release of their contents. The three primary methods used by the Federal Government to destroy classified documents are incineration, shredding or milling (dry process), and pulping (wet process).

None of these processes involves using chemicals to remove ink although the water used in the pulping process does result in some ink removal. Incineration of the waste results in total destruction and precludes any reuse for recycling. Shredding or milling involves cutting or dry beating and then passing the paper through a security screen. Most of the classified wastes identified to date are destroyed using the wet pulping process. A demonstration project is currently underway at the Pentagon involving the removal of water from the wet pulped wastes, thus permitting sale of the residue. Currently the government must pay to haul the residue to a landfill. About 3 percent to 5 percent of all federal paper waste is now sold. The National Security Agency transports its classified paper to a recycling firm which destroys documents using a pulping process; the residue is then recycled into paperboard. The government is reimbursed when the paper market price exceeds a specified amount per ton. There may be some cost to transport the wastes to the contractor and to witness the document destruction. There is no basis for estimating whether the savings would more than offset this cost.

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