I guess the smaller particles are just particular from a layer, but the bigger paper-like tears - how are those achieved? Is it some sort of shatter? Then how do you make them curve a little bit like thin paper textures?
My guess is that it's done in 3D, using a particle system (Particle Flow, or Thinking Particles). By doing the effect in "true" 3D, you can get the "flakes" to curl, and generate secondary particles, which would be the "dust" which occurs after the larger pieces detatch. You can control the effect timing with great precision in 3D, whereas with something like Particular, you might get close.