How Much Paper Can a Shredder Really Shred?

February 27, 2018 at 10:52 am by SEM

One of the first things one might consider in specifying a paper shredder is its capacity- how many sheets can you feed at once? How quickly will it shred the paper? Together, those factors determine the overall throughput of the machine. The capacity can be stated in sheets, reams, or pounds per hour.

The capacity of paper shredders widely varies. So, one might wonder why paper shredders have the capacities that they have. Why do their capacities vary? Why don’t they have higher capacities? What are the limits?

One of the biggest factors that determines the capacity of a paper shredder is its cut size. Consider this; a strip cut shredder with 1/8″ cut will turn a standard sheet of paper into 68 strips. Now, consider a general purpose cross-cut shredder, with a common cut size of 5/32″ x 1 5/32″ (aka 4mm x 40mm). That machine will turn a sheet of paper into about 515 pieces.

Clearly, a cross-cut shredder must apply a lot more power to make the additional cuts compared to a strip cut shredder. That means that for the same size machine, a cross-cut shredder will have a lower throughput versus a strip cut version. A given motor can only supply a limited amount of power to the job. The bottom line is that the smaller the cut, the smaller the stack of paper one can feed.

One can, however, get smaller. A high security NSA listed cross-cut paper shredder gets a paper shredder particle 1mm x 5mm cut size. These shredders cut a standard sheet of paper into about 12,000 bits. This cut size requires enormously more power to accomplish versus a general purpose crosscut. These shredders require feeding even smaller stacks of paper.

Office style paper shredders have these sorts of ranges for throughput:

Strip Cut: 10 sheets to 50 sheets

General Purpose Cross-cut: 8 sheets to 45 sheets

High Security Cross-cut: 3 sheets to 12 sheets

The high ends of these ranges represent the most paper that is (so far) mechanically possible to shred using a 120 volt wall current. Because circuit sizes are typically limited to 20 amps, there is a ceiling on the maximum electrical power, and in turn a limit on the maximum capacity of these machines. Sometimes shredders are advertised with specifications that are a bit outside of this range, but the real world throughputs for regular office type paper will fall right around the levels noted above.

When shredding paper even smaller than the high security level SEM also has a solution. The SEM Model 344 is a high security cross cut shredder that cuts below the 1mm x 5mm size to a mere 0.8mm by 2.5mm cut. The capacity falls in the middle of the high security average, being rated at 8 sheets per pass by the NSA.

So what capacity are you looking for? For every security level there are a lot of options out there. If you feel like you still have questions always feel free to reach out to one of our sales representatives or contact us at the chat bubble below!