Almost two-thirds of London-based businesses don’t shred confidential documents before binning or recycling them, despite the risk of facing large fines for not complying with the Data Protection Act.

In a study of more than 800 business based in London, Envirowaste found that among the confidential documents not properly disposed of, contracts containing sensitive data are the most commonly mishandled.

The worst business sectors for disposing of confidential documents without shredding them were Hospitality (81%), Marketing and PR (74%) and Finance (70%).

Of the respondents that admitted they didn’t shred confidential documents, 53% of them said client contracts where the most common document that’s disposed of without shredding, followed by booking information (36%) and invoices (29%).

As well as the risk of letting private data and information getting into the wrong hands, businesses also face a fine of up to £500,000 for failing to comply with the Data Protection Act’s rules for confidential waste.

Despite this, the number of businesses recycling in London has shown an increase over the last five years.

James Rubin, owner of EnviroWaste said: “It’s good to see the demand of our secure document destruction service getting busier, it means businesses are aware of the importance of keeping confidential documents secure and destroyed properly.

“However, the issue comes when we find confidential documents coming through our doors as part of the general waste clearances we carry out, meaning the customer has not taken the time to separate the sensitive documents from their general waste.”

He added: “Our secure destruction of confidential material policy protects our customers for material in our care, but if companies are using other recycling services, or worse just putting these documents in the bin, there can be little to no protection.

“We’re getting better at protecting ourselves online, but companies need to ensure policies around confidential documents are being followed. There may be a false sense of security that comes with recycling, but shredding documents beforehand ensures nothing slips through the net.”