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Westchester's Mobile Shredder chews up sensitive papers for free
Since the ’90s, Cathy Monahan had been saving bank statements and other sensitive papers. On Saturday morning, she drove from her home in White Plains over to drop two big cartons of financial records into the steel jaws of a giant shredding machine on wheels.
She spent the next minute watching them disappear into the load truck that was grinding noislly. If she had to do it herself, “it would’ve taken me forever,” she said as she pulled out of the Beekman Avenue parking lot across the street from Village Hall.
The highly convenient and incredibly therapeutic experience didn’t cost Monahan a penny. Say hello to the Mobile Shredder, a 28,000-pound, $200,000 wonder that belongs to Westchester County, which is among a limited number of municipalities in the nation to have its own shredding truck.
The county got into the document-shredding business in 2007, and by 2008, traded up to its current monster mobile unit, which can hold 5.5 tons of paper, according to Lou Vetrone, deputy commissioner for the county’s Environmental Facilities.
In 2012, the Mobile Shredder was booked every Saturday morning at a different city, town or village. The service has been so popular with residents worried about identity theft that the county’s haul has grown from 149 tons in 2007 to 1,338 tons in 2011, Vetrone addded.
The county sells the paper on the recycling market, where it fetches about $115 per ton. “We’re at the point where the Mobile Shredder is earning back what it cost,” he said.
On weekdays, the shredder makes stops at county offices and schools to chew up government records. But the truck was out of commission for much of 2012 due to a paper-related fire within the shredder.
Fixing it was tough because no one locally could make the repairs, Vertone said. The mobile shredder had to be sent back to the manufacturer in Canada, where it was stuck for a while in customs. During 2012, the county found a free loaner shredder to serve residents, but would-be shredders in government offices were put on hold until now.
While no one keeps track of how many municipalities own their own shredders, it doesn’t happen often. At most, some towns will periodically rent a truck for a few hours, according to Jeremy O’Brien, an official with the Solid Waste Association of North America.
“Offhand, I don’t know of any other local governments that own their own shredders,” he told Newsday via an email. “I would guess that a number of larger jurisdictions such as Westchester County have gone ahead and purchased their own shredders; we just don’t track data on them.”
Saturday was the truck’s first 10 a.m.-to-1 p.m. shredding event for residents in 2013. A list of future stops, which is constantly being updated, is on the county website at http://environment.westchestergov.com/residents/recycling-events/mobile-shredder.