Balers Keeping Papers, Heavy Metal, and Trash in Line
Whether papers, heavy metal, and debris of all kinds are destined for recycling or for the landfill, balers keep them from decorating the environment. Balers help businesses and municipalities control manmade trash-even for a profit. And unusual finds keep recyclers on their toes.
Ten years ago, Kevin Little founded Lake Erie Recycling. Now this Toledo, OH, firm processes about 45,000 tpy of all grades of waste paper, such as old corrugated cardboard (OCC), newspaper, printers’ mix, mixed office paper, and white ledgers. "We also bale nonferrous metal, including aluminum cans, aluminum siding, extrusions, and copper wire," he adds.
Little has just one baler, an Excel 2RK, which he bought in May 1996. "I outgrew the old baler, so I moved up to the larger machine. Now we have a production capacity of 85 tons per day, based on one eight-hour shift. We also bale on Saturday." His sources include printers, the general industry, and the general public. "The general public represents 35 percent of the business. Toledo doesn’t have any balers, but it has a curb program and sends us all nonferrous metals and high-volume paper."
Lake Erie Recycling, in turn, has a route operation to handle metropolitan office recycling programs. "We use a 25-yard packer and garbage truck and supply tote dumpers. We run 10 trucks and have five tractor-trailers for inbound as well as deliveries. We deliver to the mills."
Little explains that a typical 125-mi. metro run involves 12-13 tons of material per truck, and collection is three times a week. "Every Friday we dump at whatever level those totes have. If a site is consistently full, we put in more totes. We also respond when a customer calls with the need for a short-term extra tote."
He notes that it’s a drop-off and pick-up operation and that each truck can handle different kinds of paper on the same run because containers are identified for printers’ waste, printers’ mix, cardboard, and ledger paper. "It’s too labor-intensive for us to sort, so the agreement with our pick-up points is they will presort into the totes. That way, we know what’s in the container and can bale it with no major investment trying to sort the stuff."
Little and his wife Jacqueline are partners. "We handle all the marketing and solicitation of business ourselves," he states.
What the Littles like about their baler is that it is fully automatic, which allows them to focus on collection and disposition. "We get 85 tons a day with just four people on the site."
Little reports that 80% is shipped to domestic clients and 20% to Canada. "Paper accounts for 85 percent of business, and the other 15 percent is in nonferrous. We’ve been growing 20 percent a year over the last three, four years."
Bale size is 60 x 30 x 43 in. Weight, of course, depends on the product, with aluminum cans weighing 1,000-1,075 lb., OCC 1,400-1,475 lb., aluminum siding 2,300-2,375 lb., printers’ mix 1,750-1,800 lb., and magazines 2,200 lb. "It takes about 26 to 28 cans to make a pound of aluminum, so our baler holds 28,000 cans to the bale," he says.
This waste recycler is pulling material from a 150-mi. radius. "If [it’s] OCC, we weigh the trucks on the scale and dump at an outside area, then weigh the empty truck and pay the difference. We’re running a Mustang skid-steer loader with a grabber bucket for grabbing cardboard and pushing in on the in-ground conveyor," Little explains. One employee works as a sorter and, via two-way radio, reports any contamination to the scale clerk. They then show the contamination to the driver, make deductions, take pictures of the contamination, and send the source a quality report. "We’ve found that this constant education takes time and thought but helps control contamination problems. We refuse not to gamble, and we address contamination issues up front, even if we have to cut off a customer." Two employees check the belt for contamination, another drives the loader, and the fourth moves the bales from the baler and loads them for shipment.
"Basically the material we pick up from printers has been presorted, but contamination can be a problem. We sometimes get plastic, wood, or a little trash. We’ve found other things like guns, and we find purses all the time. When we do, we automatically call the police department and turn in the gun or purse."
This paper baler also is big on preventive maintenance, and cleanliness is essential. "We keep an air compressor beside the balers. Every day before we run the machine, we blow it off and check for hydraulic leaks on the hoses. We also have a quarterly inspection, which the manufacturer conducts, even though the machine is beyond the warranty period."
The longest this one-machine operation has been down was two days. "Fortunately, we have a big facility so we were able to stockpile." Little’s complex has 6 ac., and the 40,000-ft.2 building includes warehouse space. "We’re in the Snowbelt right on Lake Erie, so we get harsh winters. It gets down to minus 20 to 25 [degrees Fahrenheit], but we’re inside the building. The heater on the oil reservoir keeps the hydraulic oil warm so it doesn’t thicken."
Employees also dress appropriately. "The machine is totally enclosed, so rain or snow is not a problem. Rain doesn’t hurt OCC, so we dump the OCC outside. Moisture is an issue with those we sell to, so we do moisture testing. Then if a 1,500-pound bale weighs 1,700 pounds, we’ll deduct 200 pounds."
All other products are stored underroof. "The trucks have van bodies, so this helps keep paper out of the air stream. Some of the companies we collect from deal with confidential items, and blowing paper would really be a problem." Little concludes, "Our forte is service. That’s how we compete with the big boys."
Shredding Helps Keep Secrets
This portable baler can convert bulky, loose scrap into three different-size bales.
For Mike and Tom Boehringer, confidential paper recycling is their forte. That’s why they have a shredder at Shredding Solutions in Solon, OH. Mike explains that they sold shredders as part of their Western Business Equipment Company but went into shredding when they saw the severe need in metro Cleveland. "We were shredding before we started baling. We bale what we shred, using an Allegheny 3430-2572. Part of our service today is to recycle what we shred."
In their case, paper mills are the target disposal sites. The biggest challenge is that much of what they get is in file boxes. "We’re dumping the contents into the shredder, so no metal or plastics please. We have 15 employees, and five of them prepare paper for the shredder," Mike notes.
The Harris HRB two-ram baler is good for operations processing varying product types and grades.
Vigilant employees once found a $10,000 certificate. It had been bagged and tagged, so it took just 10-15 minutes after the Boehringers got the word to get it to the owner. Another unusual find was saw blades. "But most of what we pick up is clean because they’re paying us to shred documents, not to handle other paper," states Tom. "Those with nonconfidential paper, we refer to a normal recycler because it costs us at least three times as much to process confidential paper. Our employees have to pass a background check, and they get higher-than-average wages. We have to secure every sheet of paper. We’re shredding everything from checks to boxes of computer runs, and we cannot misplace a single document."
The Bollegraaf HBC 80 horizontal baler is suitable for waste paper, plastics, cans, and textiles.
Storage is part of their service. Tom notes, "We’re storing 120 pallets for a bank that have been here six months waiting for release to destroy." He echoes Mike’s declaration that "you won’t find a single piece of stray paper on the floor." The basic chore is to pull paper from three-ring binders and make it recyclable. Staples are not a problem because paper mills have magnets, but all plastic must be separated from the paper. Mike adds, "It takes us about a month to acquire a ton of nonrecyclables, which we send to the landfill." Sorting is a major chore for bank customers. "Night crews bag outbins set in bank basements. We open those bags and pull all the paper, putting garbage in the Dumpster. We remove the spaghetti and cupcake wrappers and sort papers into mix: landfill, ground wood, and sorted office waste and white and bale specific to each of those mixes." A majority of their baled material is sold in the area, although they have sent loads to Alabama, Quebec, and the West Coast. Says Tom, "We operate as a high-grade operator. We don’t handle newspaper." The Boehringers are pleased with their baler. Remarks Tom, "The baler has been trouble-free, which lets us focus on keeping up the quality of our service. If the baler goes down, we shred, and that’s our business. We lost a valve once and were down just an hour. All we had to do was buy the valve and put it in." He notes that plant tours, including watching the baler in operation, are a great way to attract new customers and reassure all others that their confidential papers are safe with Shredding Solutions.
Longer Fibers Increase Revenues
Florida Fibre Recycling Inc. in Spring Hill avoids shredders. Dominic Piano, CEO, says, "We bale all types of waste paper, from corrugated to high grade, producing six different types of bales. We don’t use shredders because the longer the fiber, the better the product. When you shred, you cut the fiber and reduce the value of that paper. Now, if we were handling confidential papers it would be different, but we’re handling coated book, white ledger, No. 9 news, OCC, assorted office, and Kraft corrugated. Assorted office and corrugated represent 40 percent of our business."
As with other companies that bale, Florida Fibre too has found unusual items, including engine blocks and concrete. "We go to the sites we pick up from and educate the people so they keep their goods sorted and cleaned for us," Piano notes. He also remembers the time when he was in New York and the company he was with found a lost large envelope. "It had 22,000 dollars in it—the day’s receipts for a department store."
Florida Fibre sells to three different mills. Piano explains, "One mill turns its paper into tissue, napkins, toilet paper. Another mill turns its stock into newsprint, while a third wants all our cardboard because it manufactures linerboard."
For Piano, the hardest grade to bale is coated book because it’s so slick and heavy. "Before we found the LD 60 from International Baler Corporation, we used two ram balers and had problems producing coated book. This machine makes it easy to produce a 2,400-pound bale of coated using six 14-foot-long, 12-gauge wires." White ledger also takes six wires, while cardboard, news, and assorted office require but four wires each.
For Florida Fibre, sorting is a service that builds volume. "My wife, Maryann, manages our sorting. We sort to make sure what we have is proper for what our mills want."
Basically, paper is dumped on the floor, and a Bobcat operator loosens the semipacked material. Employees sort through the paper, pulling out 3-4% of all white to make a higher-grade bale than is possible in a general run. This quick pull provides the company with an average of 10 tons of higher-grade paper a month. "You’re looking at about an hour for building this premium bale," Piano adds.
Safety is a priority, and all employees wear hardhats and safety glasses. Equipment operators wear earplugs. "We’re sticklers about safe habits. Safety is not a bother. Safety saves you money," he emphasizes.
When asked what to look for in a baler, Piano replies, "Tonnage is a big factor. Sure you can get a ram baler for 500,000 dollars, but if you’re baling just 200 tons a month, you can’t afford it. So first check for affordability, then look at baler guarantees and availability of replacement parts. We had a problem once with clogs on our baler. The sheer blades kept coming off, and the machine was down for about seven to eight hours while the manufacturer sent somebody over to fix it. Since then, we’ve had no problem."
Even better, he reports, no one was standing around waiting for the baler to be repaired. The company didn’t have to stop its pick-up service because the baler was down. "We can handle 42 hours of downtime before we run out of space, and sizing the building for possible downtime was part of the strategy. You never really want to think your baler can go down, but it’s a reality and it does happen."
For Piano, baling is essential to the profitability of his recycling operation. "Our mills are 300 miles away. Their trucking charges would eat us up if we didn’t have a baler. They need to get at least 20 tons on their trailer, and the only way to achieve that is by baling. We can’t make a profit on the collection fees alone. Because we bale, mills will come in and pick up, but they wouldn’t touch us if the paper was loose."
Piano sees baling’s future as bright. "Balers are coming out cheaper, more economical to run. Things are just getting better, producing faster, and the waiting time for a new baler is down to six to eight weeks from seven to eight months just four to five years ago. Recycling’s in."
Florida Fibre even has a transfer station adjacent to its recyclery. "We take construction and demolition debris and Class-Three dry garbage and find cheaper landfills to go in. The transfer station produces about 75 percent of our revenue, with the other 25 percent from the baling. Balers and transfer stations make a good mix. We have big haulers bringing in the stuff and don’t need any vehicles to support that phase of the operation."
Bring the Baler to Where the Action Is
Sometimes new regulations bring on new troubles. An example is a law passed earlier in the decade stipulating that nothing with Freon is to be put in the landfill. Many Kentuckians couldn’t afford the typical $75 Freon-removal charge, so they dumped their refrigerators and other appliances alongside county roads and in vacant fields and empty lots or even kept them in their backyards.
"It was getting ludicrous," exclaims H.C. Morris of Environmental Recycling Inc. in Lexington, KY. Morris came up with a solution. "We bring in a portable baler, extract the Freon from the appliance, provide verification of Freon removal, then recycle the white metal. The counties, as well as community-minded organizations, provide a place where we can operate and publicize the happenings. In November, for example, we took our Al-Jon 400 baler to six different locations. In three days in Frankfort alone, we recycled nearly 70 tons of white metal. It’s a win/win situation."
The family firm includes H.C., son Shawn, and daughter Boo. "While the emphasis is on white metal or appliances, people will throw in swing sets, fence wire, and a little bit of everything metal. We don’t take steel cable, paint cans, 55-gallon drums, or anything else that might contain hazardous material. There is no charge. We make our profit by recycling every bit of metal."
Morris comments that visitors seem to especially enjoy watching his 26-year-old daughter operate the clamshell bucket. Their services have been highlighted in a number of newspaper articles throughout the 50 Kentucky counties they’ve worked with. "On a typical day, we’ll finish 70 bales, each weighing about 1,200 pounds and compressed into 2- by 2- by 4-foot bales."
They also retrieve any air conditioners and take them to company headquarters for PCB removal. "Anything with Freon, we also set aside. We have a portable reclamation unit that removes the Freon from the appliance. We write down the brand, model number, and serial number of each machine we’ve cleared of Freon, then ship that Freon to Colorado."
Thanks to an updated process, this service yields the family operation 10-15 30-lb. containers of Freon monthly. (A typical refrigerator or window air-conditioning unit can have 8 oz. to 5 lb. of refrigerant.)
After Freon removal, the white metal is placed in the 12- x 6- x 6-ft. hopper and compressed to one-third the original mass. "It’s all enclosed, so we can safely work out of a parking lot. There has never been an injury yet." After the operation is finished, the Morrises clean up the area and move their rig to the next site.
As with other businesses, different opportunities present themselves. Morris recalls the time a liquor distillery caught fire and seven storage buildings burned down. "You could see the fire 20 miles away. It was so hot, the only things left were 721 tons of bourbon whiskey–barrel rings. There were 10 pounds of rings per barrel. That’s a lot of liquor gone up in smoke."
The Morrises spent three weeks at that site. "Again, we did it for no charge to the distillery, just for the recycle value," he states.
Another call took their portable rig to Arkansas, where they crunched tin roofing and siding from an old factory built earlier in the century. "They had used asbestos for insulation, and it was covered with PCBs. Before we got there, they had to take each 3- by 10-foot sheet, wrap it in plastic, and load it on a truck for disposal in Death Valley [California]—at 3,000 dollars per load! Furthermore, they estimated it would take them three to four months."
When Morris explained the difference compaction would make in the cost and speed of the operation, the customer was delighted. Instead of 3-4 tons per load, the compressed metal would average 25 tons—for the same disposal fee. "Shawn got certified to do asbestos, dressed in a spacesuit, and baled the siding. It took just 11 days." The rapid time was possible because they ran their machine 12-14 hours a day. "If it’s light outside, we’re baling."
When asked about any concerns, especially with white metal, he responds, "Only when that refrigerator or freezer arrives taped shut. We save those for last, thanks to the odor from spoiled goods." As it is, recycling white metal has solved the public concern about illegal dumping, owners’ concerns about the cost of extracting Freon, and Morris’ need for family income.
Waiting for a Balefill? Keep Baling
The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, IL, reports that making a baling operation an integral part of a solid waste transfer station is an economical answer to the challenge of solid waste disposal. "We are serving 23 communities, with a population of about 850,000," reports Steven Schilling, P.E., assistant executive director. The cost of baling is $2.75/ton.
The operation, which has three Logemann Model AT-445-B1-BG multimedia balers, handles all MSW products. "We typically run two balers at a time, holding one in reserve and doing maintenance on it. We don’t have any downtime and haven’t had to close the facility for any extended period since opening on February 1, 1994."
The 82,000-ft.2 building is situated on seven landscaped acres, in a 40-ac. site central to the collection area. Daily baling capacity is over 1,500 tons, and the inside tipping area can accommodate nine trucks. Trailer loading is automatic, and all activity is monitored from a master control room complete with TV monitors and remote controls. A 435-ft. enclosed walkway doubles as a visitors’ gallery.
Each incoming load is visually inspected for nonacceptable wastes, which are separated for proper handling at the end of the day. All baleable refuse is normally cleared from the facility each day. "Our initial plan was to have a balefill on the site to contain the bales in building block fashion," Schilling explains. "Baling makes for a very efficient, clean operation because everything is contained; there is no blowing litter. A baler also gives 30 percent more compaction than is possible with trucks and a landfill compactor rolling over dumped solid waste."
This is the only baling transfer station so far in all of Illinois. Schilling notes, "The other 76 transfer stations do have compactors and compact into trailers, but no one does the small bales we do. Since our balefill hasn’t come on-line, our biggest challenge at this moment is matching prices offered by the private sector."
Separating for recyclable products is done at the residential level, and the extensive list includes plastics, metals, cardboard, and paper. "Landscape waste is diverted to a composting site. By removing all recyclable materials and landscape waste early on, we’re pulling 40 percent out of the wastestream, and it’s being done by the citizens themselves."
The station is open from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. weekdays and until noon on Saturdays. Each baler can handle 55 tph. "On average, a truck can come in, dump its load, and move out in about eight minutes," Schilling describes. "Maximum time on the site is 15 to 20 minutes, and that’s usually the day after a holiday." Sometimes the transfer station has to slow the baling operation because the tipping day is less than full. In October 1999, this station, which cost $12 million to bring on-line, handled its millionth ton of garbage.
Schilling concludes, "It takes just two minutes to make a bale, and we’re baling 250,000 tons of garbage a year. Thanks to sorting at the user level, we don’t get anything unusual except an occasional dead skunk."
So whether it’s confidential or nonconfidential paper, white metal, or even general-run municipal solid waste, balers help keep the environment clean at a more affordable level.
Author's Bio: Journalist Joseph Lynn Tilton specializes in land and building issues.