The first paper shredder is credited to prolific inventor Abbot Augustus Low of Horseshoe, located on the Western shore of Horseshoe Lake, in Piercefield, New York. His patent for a “waste paper receptacle” to offer an improved method of disposing of waste paper was filed on February 2, 1909 and received the U.S. patent number 929,960 on August 31, 1909. Low’s invention was never manufactured, however.
Adolf Ehinger’s paper shredder, based on a hand-crank pasta maker, was manufactured in 1935 in Germany. Supposedly he needed to shred his anti-Nazi propaganda to avoid the inquiries of the authorities. Ehinger later marketed his shredders to government agencies and financial institutions converting from hand-crank to electric motor. Ehinger’s company, EBA Maschinenfabrik, manufactured the first cross-cut paper shredders in 1959 and continues to do so to this day as EBA Krug & Priester GmbH & Co. in Balingen.
The U.S. embassy in Iran used strip-cut paper shredders to reduce paper pages to strips before the embassy was taken over in 1979 (though not entirely successfully). After Colonel Oliver North told Congress that he used a Schleicher Intimus 007 S cross-cut model to shred Iran-Contra documents, sales for that company increased nearly 20 percent in 1987.
Until the mid-1980s, it was rare for paper shredders to be used by non-government entities. After the 1984 Supreme Court decision in California v. Greenwood, in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit the warrantless search and seizure of garbage left for collection outside of a home, paper shredders became more popular among US citizens with privacy concerns. Anti-burning laws, concern over landfills, industrial espionage, and identity theft concerns created greater demand for paper shredding.
The US Federal Trade Commission estimates that 9 million cases of identity theft take place per year in the USA alone and recommends that individuals defend themselves against identity theft by shredding financial documents before disposal.
News agencies have driven awareness of information theft to the extent that most consumers, healthcare organizations and businesses understand the importance of destroying confidential information. Also, information privacy laws like FACTA, HIPAA and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act are driving shredder sales as businesses and individuals take steps to comply to avoid legal complications.
Shredding at high levels continues in government agencies too. According to the report of the Paul Volcker Committee, between April and December 2004, Kofi Annan’s then Chef de Cabinet Iqbal Riza authorized thousands of UN documents shredded including the entire chronological files of the Oil-for-Food Programme between the years 1997-1999.
 Types of shredders
Shredders range in size and price from small and inexpensive units meant for a few pages, to large units used by commercial shredding services that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars and can shred millions of documents an hour. Some shredders used by a commercial shredding service are built into a shredding truck.
The normal small shredder is an electrically powered device, but there are unpowered ones such as special scissors with multiple blade pair and shredders which are hand-cranked.
These machines are classified according to the size and shape of the shreds they produce. (As a practical matter, this is also a measure of the degree of randomness or entropy they generate.) Shredders can range in size from standard scissors and other hand-operated devices all the way up to truck-sized shredders. There are also shredder selector sites that can help consumers choose a shredder that is appropriate for their needs.
- Strip-cut shredders, the least secure, use rotating knives to cut narrow strips as long as the original sheet of paper. Such strips can be reassembled by a determined and patient investigator or adversary, as the product (the destroyed information) of this type of shredder is the least randomized. It also creates the highest volume of waste inasmuch as the chad has the largest surface area and is not compressed.
- Cross-cut or confetti-cut shredders use two contra-rotating drums to cut rectangular, parallelogram, or diamond-shaped (or lozenge) shreds.
- Particle-cut shredders create tiny square or circular pieces.
- Cardboard shredders are designed specifically to shred corrugated material into either strips or a mesh pallet.
- Disintegrators and granulators repeatedly cut the paper at random until the particles are small enough to pass through a mesh.
- Hammermills pound the paper through a screen.
- Pierce and Tear Rotating blades pierce the paper and then tear it apart.
- Grinders A rotating shaft with cutting blades grinds the paper until it is small enough to fall through a screen.
There are numerous standards for the security levels of paper shredders, including:
- DIN 32757 
- Level 1 = 12 mm strips
- Level 2 = 6 mm strips
- Level 3 = 2 mm strips (Confidential)
- Level 4 = 2 x 15 mm particles (Commercially Sensitive)
- Level 5 = 0.8 x 12 mm particles (Top Secret or Classified)
- Level 6 = 0.8 x 4 mm particles (Top Secret or Classified) (unofficial extension of the DIN 32757-1 standard)
- United States Department of Defense (DoD)
- Top Secret = 0.8 x 11.1 mm (1/32″ × 7/16″) no longer approved after 1 October 2008 for U.S. government classified documents[dubious – discuss]
- United States National Security Agency/CSS 02-01 = 1 × 5 mm required for all U.S. government classified document destruction starting 1 October 2008[dubious – discuss].
Historically, the General Services Administration (GSA) set paper shredder guidance in the Interim Federal Specification FF-S-001169 dated July 1971 which was superseded by standard A-A-2599 for classified material which was canceled in February 2000. GSA has not published a new standard since.
There are alternative shredders that use combustion, chemical decomposition, or composting for disposing of the shreds.
 Shredder trucks
A mobile shredding truck is a box truck with an industrial sized paper shredder mounted inside the box, typically in the front section of the box, closest to the cab. The box is divided into two sections: the shredding equipment area, and the payload area for storage of the shredded materials. These trucks have been designed to shred up to 8,000 lb (3,600 kg) of paper an hour. Mobile shredding trucks can have a shredded material storage capacity of 6,000 to 15,000 lb (2,700 to 6,800 kg) of shredded paper. Office paper is the typical material being shredded, but with increasing security concerns customers also request shredding of CDs, DVDs, hard drives, credit cards, and uniforms, among other things. There are many manufactures for mobile shredding trucks but only a few of them design equipment in house.
 Shredding services
Some companies outsource their shredding to shredding services. These companies either shred on-site, with mobile shredder trucks or have off-site shredding facilities. Documents that need to be destroyed are often placed in bins that are emptied periodically.
In Canada, there are no provincial or federal regulations for the operations of the industry. Companies can voluntarily join an international association called NAID where they get bi-yearly announced and unannounced audits.
 Shredder innovation
As the demand for commercial and personal shredders grows, shredder manufacturers continue to develop new features that improve the shredder user’s experience with efficiency, convenience and safety.
- Jam proof shredders – many new shredders have means to detect paper thickness to avoid paper jams by rejecting paper that is fed over capacity, and have more powerful motors to handle jumbled or misfed paper.
- Safety sensor – The shredder automatically shuts off when hands are too close to the paper entry.
- Silent operation – Shredders designed for noise reduction in shared workspaces or department copy rooms.
- Energy savings – Shredders that enter a power-saving sleep mode when not in use.
- Mess reduction – the shredder features an automatic cleaning cycle that prevents paper build-up on cutters. To eliminate overflow, a sensor lets the user know when to empty the bin while a sliding flap contains dangling shreds.
 Shredder Applications
- Animal Bedding Animal bedding is one of the most economical and ecological methods of recycling. Waste paper, be it news print or off cuts, can be shredded and bagged to produce a warm and comfy bed for animals. This then decomposes very quickly on a muck heap.
- Security Shredding Document distruction, to prevent identity theft was one of the earliest uses of shredders. By shredding into strips or dicing documents it makes it near impossible for the documents to be read after shredding,
- Void Fill and Packaging Shredded material can be used both as an asthetic and functional product. Shredded Cellophane can be used to package high street good and shredded cardboard can be used as a void fill for the transportation of goods.
- Cardboard Briquettes Briquettes are quickly becoming a viable alternative to coal and other non renewable fuels.
- Children’s Playgrounds Once tiers have been shredded and granulated they are often combined with a strong resin to create soft rubber playground.
- Waste Reduction Shredding waste material generally reduces waste volume by up to 75%, which, for the remaining material that reached landfill, is much less robust and takes up less room in fill.