Greening the Northside: The Paper Exchange


A truckload of paper bound for the shredder en route to The Paper Exchange’s shredding facility in Spring Garden. This green business recycles 98 percent of all materials. (Photo courtesy The Paper Exchange)

Each month, The Chronicle will feature a profile of a green business. Last month: Underwood Solar Future.

Even in an era of computers and electronic files, people still go through a lot of paper.

So much paper, in fact, that Northside document storage and recycling company The Paper Exchange shreds hundreds of tons of unwanted and unneeded documents every month.

Jeff Prunzik, who co-founded The Paper Exchange in 1996 with his brother Dan, said his business shreds and then recycles all kinds of documents, from invoices and bills to legal cases and medical records.

Once the documents have been shredded twice at their Spring Garden facility, the client receives a certificate of destruction and the paper is shipped off to be recycled. In fact, 98 percent of everything The Paper Exchange shreds is turned into consumer products like newsprint, paper towels, tissue paper, toilet paper and drywall.

“We’re ‘green’ because our logo is green,” Prunzik said with a laugh. In a more serious tone he added that his company is a green business because it essentially produces no waste. It doesn’t even have a dumpster, because it doesn’t need one, he said.

Although Prunzik has seen some technology and software companies successfully go paperless, he doesn’t think most businesses will follow suit for a long time to come.

“Companies, people will always have a need for hard copies,” he said, adding that he prefers hard copies for his own business.

Prunzik cited one client in Pittsburgh that hands over a full truckload of documents to be shredded every week as evidence of the pace of the document destruction business.

Some companies, Prunzik said, don’t only shred important or confidential documents, they shred anything and everything including junk mail and Post-it notes just to be on the safe side.

“In this day and age identity theft and confidentiality have really jumped to the forefront,” Prunzik said.

Under federal law, for example, medical records must be destroyed by either burning or shredding. Since Allegheny County bans burning, shredding is the only option for most companies that need to destroy large numbers of documents.

In the past few years the company was inundated with calls from individuals who had years and years worth of financial documents they needed to get rid of but couldn’t throw away for fear of someone finding the papers in the trash. Now The Paper Exchange is the only company in the region providing large-scale shredding services to both businesses and individuals, Prunzik said.

The Paper Exchange, which employs 16 full-time employees, can provide its secure shredding service at the client’s office with one of its two shredder-toting trucks, or it can pick up the records and shred them at its facility.

Make no mistake about the shredding power of the trucks. These are not SUVs or pick-ups with a small office shredder in the back seat. These shredders eat about 6,000 pounds of paper per hour, Prunzik said. Most office shredders will simply overheat if used for an hour.

The shredders at The Paper Exchange can do at least twice what the trucks can, putting them at 12,000 or more pounds per hour.

In addition to shredding documents, CDs, VHS tapes, microfilm and pretty much anything used to store data, The Paper Exchange since 2004 has provided document storage solutions for companies who may not want to pay premium prices for extra space at their office buildings.

Another reason companies may choose to store their documents with The Paper Exchange is the same reason they might shred them: to protect confidentiality and prevent identity theft.

The company’s Downtown temperature-controlled storage facility is kept under 24-hour surveillance, both inside and out.

For more information, visit The Paper Exchange online at or call them at 412-325-7075.

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