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Better Shredder Turns Tide in the Junk Mail Battle

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In the modern era of identity theft, the need to dispose of sensitive personal information by shredding is pretty well established.  This has sparked an explosion of offerings in the personal shredder category, and if you've never owned a shredder before, it can be particularly hard to find one that will truly meet your needs.

I first purchased this inexpensive Fellowes cross-cut shredder several years ago, and soon discovered why it was inexpensive.  

A picture named M2

Although it did a decent enough job actually shredding 1 or 2 pages at a time, it had a number of frustrating shortcomings:
  • It...was...SLLLOOOOOOOWWWWWWW!
  • Attempts to save time by increasing the number of pages per pass usually resulted in a paper jam.
  • IT WAS LOUD!!!!
  • You couldn't tell how full the thing was without lifting the heavy shredder element off the top of the plastic bin.
  • Once you finally did go empty it, you usually made a mess because all the paper bits stuck to the blades fell everywhere like confetti.
  • The small capacity of the bin meant it had to be emptied frequently.
  • Couldn't shred heavier items like credit cards (to say nothing of CDs, DVDs, or floppy discs)

With junk mailers responding to the proliferation of shredders by putting dummy "credit cards" and other "unshreddable" items in their ever more frequent credit offer mailings, I needed something tougher, and found this little brute made by Executive Machines:

A picture named M3 
Model EDS- (~$50-70 - check eBay as well)

Finally!  I could shred an entire piece of junk mail, regardless of contents, without even opening the envelope (Take that Capital One!).  And not only can I see how full the bin is, but the drawer design makes emptying it an easy and (mostly) clean operation.  This is good, since the bin is not very large (certainly nowhere near the "2.2 gallon" advertised capacity).  Nor is it super-fast, but since you can put more through on each pass, and it almost never jams, 3-4 days worth of junk mail usually disappears in under a minute.  All in all, an amazingly useful little appliance.  Indeed, up until recently, the only other complaint I had was the small opening, which necessitates folding regular paper if that's what you want to shred.

Then we had a baby...
A picture named M4

Suddenly, this little beastie (the shredder that is) had to limit its noisy paper chomping to those increasingly rare slivers of time when a) the baby wasn't sleeping, b) the baby wasn't downstairs (near the shredder), and c) Mommy and Daddy weren't distracted by the baby.  The junk mail started piling up.  I needed something that would allow me to shred more junk in less time in order to get everything done during those brief moments of opportunity.  Finally, when it got too much to bear, I made a weekend dash to our neigborhood Staples, and found exactly what I didn't know I was looking for.

What I brought home that day is nothing short of a minor technological miracle that has turned all my pre-conceived shredder stereotypes on their head!  OK, ok, perhaps I'm exaggerating a bit, but what you ask could get me so excited?

Answer:

A picture named M2
A picture named M3

It's not super cheap at $170US, but boy is this thing quiet!  I didn't know a shredder could be that quiet.  How quiet you ask?  Certainly as quiet as any electric shaver.  So quiet that two people chatting in the next room, with no door between us, could not hear the shredder over their own voices.  So quiet my wife could shred stuff in our bedroom and I would sleep right through it.  That quiet. I can now shred whenever I want, which means no junk mail piling up.  As a bonus, this is also a "Microcut" shredder, which means it chops paper into bits about 1mm x 4mm in size.  VERY secure.  The waste bin is comparably huge in relation to my other machines, and will take a few weeks to fill up in normal use.  Although it is considered "heavy duty", and can shred CDs, credit cards, etc., it does this with a second slot that only cuts things into strips, which is not as secure.  Also, if you try to shred a continuous stream of documents for more than 3-4 minutes, it will probably turn itself off to avoid overheating.  I only needed to do this when I first bought it, to catch up on the backlog, so I'm not complaining too much.  Since I still have the other little beastie for the really tough jobs, I'm covered.

Conclusion

Although Fellowes is certainly the dominant brand in the shredder category, I would not consider them to be particularly high in quality, and the design of their products is often poorly conceived compared with others, including the two examples featured here from Executive Machines and Staples.  Whatever shredder you buy, keep the following considerations in mind:
  1. Only look at cross-cut or microcut shredders - strip shredders are only slightly cheaper and nowhere near as secure.
  2. Make sure the waste bin is easy to view and empty.  I would stay away from the perforated metal bins, since the dust produced would pass easily through the holes.
  3. If you plan to shred junk mail, definitely go for a shredder rated for shredding credit cards, CDs, floppies etc. to avoid jams.
  4. If you have a high volume of "normal" paper to shred, consider getting one shredder optimized just for that role, and a second one like the EDS-102 for the hard stuff.  
  5. Consider your tolerance for noise, especially since it will be a big advantage to put the shredder in a convenient spot (e.g. near the front door) rather than carry junk mail through the house to find the shredder.  I now shred or toss junk mail immediately after picking it out of the mailbox, unconcerned about disturbing anyone - nothing sits around anymore.
  6. Cost - always a factor, but if you value your time at all, you'll want to spend enough to get a machine that won't become a big headache, either by being hard to use, or frequently jamming.

Happy Shredding

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