There are two main tools for securely destroying paper documents: paper shredders and document disintegrators. They serve the same purpose, but the end product sure does look different!
Paper shredders produce perfect rectangular bits, a result of precisely spaced rotating cutters. Disintegrators produce irregular confetti bits, all below a certain maximum dimension; a result of a random, repeating knife chopping process and a particle sizing screen they must pass through. Many factors should be considered when choosing between a shredder and a disintegrator, but what about this particle difference? Does it matter?
When comparing paper rectangles with confetti of a similar size (i.e. similar surface area), disintegrated confetti is clearly more secure. Most notably, the pieces are cut in irregular shapes, sizes, and orientations. This creates a far more complicated puzzle for anyone wishing to reassemble a document.
Let’s not forget the other big difference- in a shredder the particles are deposited in layers as each sheet of paper is destroyed. In a disintegrator, the particles leave the cutting chamber at random points in time as they become small enough to fit through the particle security screen. This means the disintegrated documents end up as confetti that is highly mixed in the waste bin.
For particles of roughly the same size, disintegrators win on security. However, it should be noted that for classified document destruction, both NSA listed paper shredders and disintegrators are approved. The particle differences between disintegrators and shredders are often seen as more significant for unclassified document destruction- i.e. when producing larger particles. Ultimately, the particle difference is good to consider as part of a decision between shredders and disintegrators but should rarely be the deciding factor.