Balers and Compactors for Better Waste Management

Debra Schug, Contributing Writer

According to the EPA, Americans generate more than 262.4 million tons of waste annually, on average. In light of changing attitudes, some manufacturers are making strides to achieve zero-waste to landfill operations in which they reduce, reuse or recycle all of their production waste. This approach especially makes sense for consumer-facing companies. It can be beneficial for them to communicate their environmental efforts to the public.

For example, Subaru is featuring new television ads that say, “All Subaru vehicles are built in zero-landfill plants, where 100% of waste is recycled or turned into electricity.” In fact, the company’s plant in Indiana hasn’t sent any waste to a landfill since 2004. An important first step made to reach this goal is investing in infrastructure, such as recycling containers and compactors.

Having an efficient and environmentally friendly waste program can benefit not just the image of companies, but can translate to real dollars and cents. This article will take a look at how adding equipment, such as balers and compactors, can help the overall profitability of operations and help keep a safe and orderly environment.

Benefits of a Good Waste-Management Program

When running a material handling or manufacturing business, generating some kind of waste is inevitable. From shipping materials to boxes to pallets, excess materials will have to be thrown away. However, as consumers become more sensitive to waste generated by companies and how it impacts the environment, businesses are starting to change elements of their operations.

A focus on recycling outside of the U.S. has long been a major push for businesses. And, for companies in those countries, especially Europe, using balers and compactors have been an important element in waste management.

“Baling and compacting are a vital part of our country catching up to the rest of the world as it relates to sustainability,” said J. Mark Lanning, President of Orwak North America Inc. “These machines will help reduce cost, increase recycling and lower our overall carbon footprint.”

So, investing in these machines, as Subaru did, is an important first step to more environmentally friendly waste management. However, even if CSR is not an end goal, a well-managed waste program can help efficiency as well.

First, investing in a baler and/or a compactor can help reduce waste costs. For instance, trash must be picked up by waste collectors for a fee. By using a compactor, a large amount of mixed waste can be compressed to reduce the volume of trash before being picked up, which decreases the amount of collections by an outside party and can cut hauling and transportation costs.

Also, compactors can help free up floor space by cutting down on the number of waste bins needed to manage loose trash. Plus, the size of the compressed waste is easier to handle and transport, which makes operations more efficient and orderly, resulting in safer work environments.

“This process also helps to eliminate congestion in work areas, while creating a safer environment for employees [one that is] free of fire hazards and vermin infestation,” said Lane Powell, New Business Development Manager for Harmony Enterprises.

Balers can achieve these results as well. However, the main purpose of balers is to bundle recyclable material, like cardboard, paper, plastics and metal, which can then be sold to waste recyclers to generate an additional revenue stream.

Balers Versus Compactors

When determining whether to invest in a baler or compactor, experts advise businesses to be clear about their needs, requirements and goals. If the main goal is to just reduce waste, then a compactor might be the answer.

Commercial compactors can be manufactured to specific business requirements, varying in size from 2-32yds. They can be operated by one person and require little training. When a plant compacts trash, it can be general waste, no matter the material type.

“Trash is compacted to make it easier to manage and more economical to transport,” said Lanning.

However, if the waste produced at a plant comprises of recyclable materials, or if the plant’s goal is to recycle more, then it would be wise to look into balers.

“Balers are used for recycling valuable commodities, such as aluminum, cardboard, plastic, paper, non-ferrous metals and shrink-wrap,” said Powell. “Rather than adding them to the waste stream, companies can create additional revenue by baling and recycling these items.”

Types of Balers and Compactors

Balers come in a variety of sizes and can produce small-to-medium volumes of waste, designed to accommodate different business needs. To determine what type of baler to invest in, balers can be broken down into the round balers, rectangular, square, industrial and nexgen. Since round, rectangular and square balers are more typically used in agricultural applications, industrial and nexgen types are the main focus here.

Industrial balers are most commonly found in the recycling industry to compress recyclable materials; most are made of steel and are hydraulically operated. There are generally three categories of industrial balers: vertical balers, which handle small to medium volumes of waste; semi-auto horizontal balers, suitable for operations generating high volumes of recyclable material; and stockroom balers, which are ideal for retailers and for confined spaces.

And, recent technological innovations in balers have produced a new line of nexgen balers that need little human interaction to operate, mainly because they feature automatic wire-tying mechanisms. Harmony’s product line of balers features 17 different models, which are different sizes and provide different pressures to produce various bale sizes, weights and densities.

“Some balers are automatic and/or conveyor fed. Some are designed for beverage extraction and/or product destruction,” said Powell. “Choosing the right baler depends on what is being recycled, quantity, frequency and operational footprint.”

Compactors also come in many different categories designed for different jobs and can be chute- or ground-fed or even attached to loading docks. For instance, compacting dumpsters can hold as much as 30yds of trash, so they’re ideal for big operations. Bin compactors are perfect for warehouses or other environments with large volumes of trash produced and can be fed using a chute.

Vertical outdoor compactors are ideal for places that have limited hauler access. Outdoor hopper compactors are good for situations where the compactor needs to be loaded not from the ground floor, but from a dock. Thru-the-wall compactors are good for applications where the compactor is placed outside. Pre-crusher compactors are best for handling bulky trash, as they come with a large container that can withstand great crushing forces. Stationary compactors are ideal for environments producing high volumes of trash.

The ROI of Balers and Compactors

When looking at the bottom line, some businesses can see balers and compactors as an added, unnecessary cost. Even if the long-term value is appreciated, companies investing in waste-handling or recycling equipment can become nervous to put down the required large upfront payment—especially the way buying new equipment was structured under old tax laws.

“This investment was magnified with a delayed return on itemization of expenses on taxes,” said Powell. “Businesses that purchased equipment could not expense the value of the item at one time. Instead, the overall value had to be depreciated over a longer period of time, equal to its expected profitable use. This system of depreciation made it difficult on accounting professionals.”

However, the tax laws have changed for businesses and now allow companies to claim their expenses differently for recycling and waste equipment.

“Under the new law, businesses can expense the full purchase amount immediately,” Powell said.

If businesses are still not sure about buying a baler or compactor, Powell said renting equipment is an alternative option.  WMHS