Efficiency Cubed

Compactors and balers can improve recycling profits and minimize the cost of shipping.

A denser bale is worth more per cubic foot.
A denser bale is worth more per cubic foot.
International Baler

Compactors and balers are a key part of the waste management handling process, with new technologies introducing increased safety and efficiency operations.

“The use of this equipment allows for waste to be densified, which assists with lowering freight costs by ensuring full loads every time and improving the life of a landfill,” notes Roger Williams, regional sales manager, Maren Engineering.

“The increased density of the waste material is important because it helps lengthen the life of a landfill by allowing more material to take up less space than if it was loose.”

For recyclable materials, balers are used both before and after collection, at the point of generation in the case of many businesses, and a Materials Recycling Facility (MRF) in the case of residential, notes Jessica Hart, sales and marketing for International Baler Corp.

“Many retail stores have small, semi-automated balers in the back of their stores, and larger facilities, such as distribution centers, will have larger, more automated balers, sometimes several,” she adds.

MRFs have balers at the end of their sorting lines. These are usually large, fully automated machines.

“Sometimes the volume will call for more than one machine,” says Hart. “Some balers handle multiple materials and some are designed to run one material only. For MSW, the baler is used to compact the mixed solid waste before it goes into the landfill.”

For recyclable materials, a correctly-sized and dense bale is important for efficiency, maximizing the profit of recycling, and minimizing the cost of shipping, Hart points out.

“The more efficient the baler, the faster the recycler or retailer can process their material and get it to the buyer,” she says. “Since commodities are usually purchased by the ton, a denser bale is worth more per cubic foot than a less dense bale. Among other things, the buyer is interested in a dense bale that they can transport with the least cost, especially if it is to be exported. For MSW, efficient baling means more material can take up less space in the landfill.”

Wastequip—which manufactures a complete line of waste handling equipment for trash and recycling—delineates the benefits of compaction with its educational materials by pointing out that compaction reduces material size and volume by compressing and crushing.

A stationary compactor is a machine that compacts refuse into a detachable container at the site of generation. A pre-crusher dry waste compactor pre-crushes large bulky items such as steel drums and pallets before being compacted into the container.

A compaction container is a steel-reinforced container into which a stationary compactor compacts refuse. A self-contained compactor is a unit in which the compactor is integrated structurally to the compaction container and the entire machine is taken to the disposal site.

The charge box is the area, measured in cubic yards, in front of a compactor ram into which refuse is placed (L x W x H). The Clear/Top opening is the length and width of the opening above the charge box.

Compaction containers are available in octagonal and rectangular styles from 20 to 40 cubic yards.

For compactor installation, a concrete pad is preferred with dimensions of 10 feet wide and a length of 5 feet greater than the combined length of the compactor and container. The pad should be a minimum of 3,000 psi concrete, wire mesh reinforced, and 6 inches thick.

For electrical considerations, a lockable fused disconnect box must be within sight and no more than 50 feet away from the main control panel. This equipment conforms to all applicable ANSI Z245.2/.21 safety standards.

The installation must comply with the recommended ANSI and OSHA standards. There must be interlock switches on the hopper access gate or chute/doghouse doors. A “hold to run” button may also be required.

E-stop emergency controls should be readily accessible to the operator or located within 3 feet of the point of operation, the material feed area, or if chute fed, within 3 feet of the access door.

Wastequip’s Clean-Pak on displayWastequip’s Clean-Pak on displayWastequip

A compactor consists of five basic parts:

  • The body: a steel structure which houses all the other parts. It has an area where the material is compiled or a charge box with heavily reinforced sides to withstand the forces of compaction. A breaker bar, made of a heavy steel angle, is located across the front of the charge box. This bar breaks oversized objects like wood or pallets before they enter the compaction container.
  • The ram is a specially designed steel structure with a heavy faceplate. It moves horizontally through the charge box, forcing the refuse into the compaction container.
  • The cylinder is attached behind the ram and moves it forward and backward. Inside the cylinder is a piston and rod which operates hydraulically. Cylinders vary in size. Larger ones are used in heavy-duty compactors with big charge boxes. Cylinders are sized by bore and rod diameters.
  • The power unit consists of a hydraulic oil tank, pump, electric motor, and directional control valve. The oil, under high pressure, forces the piston in the cylinder to move forward and backward.
  • The electric panel box contains the transformer, motor starter, relays, fuses, and switches that operate the compactor. Most panel boxes incorporate printed circuit boards or programmable controllers for added reliability. All should be UL rated.

Smart technology is being incorporated into some balers.Smart technology is being incorporated into some balers.BE Equipment

While compacting waste reduces the size and volume of material through compressing and crushing and saves money by reducing the number of hauls, those best suited to invest in the equipment include operations generating 30 to 40 cubic yards of material weekly. A vertical compactor may be suitable for such an operation, while those generating 60 to 150 cubic yards weekly could use a stationary compactor with a detachable container or a self-contained liquid-tight compactor.

The volume of waste and its size are two factors to consider when choosing a compactor. Dry waste is efficiently compacted by a stationary compactor. Wet waste is best handled by a self-contained, liquid-tight compactor.

Considerations in choosing balers focus on material types.Considerations in choosing balers focus on material types.BE Equipment

To ensure ease of use, the compactor’s location is important. Consider if its loading height saves steps and labor and is easy to feed.

Questions to consider: Is one central point adequate or should several locations be considered? Is there space for the compactor and collection truck to service the compactor? Are overhead clearances adequate? Is adequate power available and if so, is it single-phase or three-phase? Is the compactor compatible with local waste collection equipment?

Does installation require a through-the-wall chute, a doghouse, or a dock-fed hopper? Is the compactor adaptable to these types of installations?

The amount by which a compactor will reduce the volume of solid waste depends on the type of refuse, the total force of compaction RAM, and the type of compaction container. While the average compaction ratio for compactible, mixed waste is 4:1, exceptions are industrial waste consisting mainly of pallets and heavy boxes that might yield only a 2:1 compaction ratio. Climate affects compaction ratio—frozen garbage is more difficult to compact than wet garbage.

Kirk Warren, director of product management for Wastequip’s steel division, says the two most common compactors used are stationary and the self-contained.

“They are the ones haulers and end-users are most familiar with and that’s dependent on the wastestream. They come in varying sizes,” he says. “When used properly, the equipment makes the process safer, easier, and more efficient for both the customer and the hauler.”

In doing a site survey, Wastequip representatives want to know how the material is collected, how it’s going to be loaded, how often, and what the available space is.

“It’s not only where the equipment is going to be located—if it’s inside or outside—but making sure that the collection vehicle is not interfering with the operation of the business itself,” says Warren.

“Then we determine if the size of that equipment fits into the space and confirm the voltage,” he adds. “We want to make sure it’s going to work with the hauler. Once all of that pre-work is done, then when the equipment arrives, certain things have to be done to prep the site and make sure everything goes smoothly so that they can hook it up and employees are trained on how to use it.”

The concrete pad is the desired material for supporting the equipment. “It has to be a certain width, a certain length, and a certain thickness to support the weight of the equipment and the waste material and then also the collection vehicles that will be picking it up,” says Warren. “It’s not like you can take the compactor and anchor it to asphalt.”

The rationale is that when the collection vehicle is lifting the compactors and the rear wheels are not resting on concrete but asphalt, it can create ruts and make it very difficult to pick up and create an unsafe environment.

The learning curve for operating a compactor is generally user-friendly, notes Warren.

“With most compact equipment, there’s a key switch to turn it on and you can push a button to operate it,” says Warren. “The equipment is designed so that it will not operate unless the necessary safeguards are in place.”

The equipment also has lights indicating it is full and needs servicing.

Balers and compactors can be tailored to specific goals.Balers and compactors can be tailored to specific goals.BE Equipment

Safety is key, notes Warren.

“When we work with end-users, we try to understand exactly how the employees are involved in the handling of the waste—everything from how they collect it, how it’s transported through their business, and then how it’s going to be loaded,” says Warren. “We’ve designed equipment so we can minimize any injury or accidents to the users and operators.”

If heavy waste is being generated, Wastequip provides carts that take the strain off of the employee.

“They can walk that to that compaction equipment and it will be automatically lifted or loaded into there,” says Warren. “You can minimize back injuries and the strain where employees come into contact with the waste just by making sure they have the right type of equipment to load it into the compactor from where it’s collected.”

Compaction and baling equipment are incorporating new technologies such as sensor pads that help ensure an individual will not come into contact with the material when it’s going to become compacted, says Warren.

While monitoring equipment has been incorporating into compactors and balers for some time, technology is taking it a step further through the use of sensors and IoT, notes Warren.

“It’s using IoT to transmit information to let people know when the equipment is full. The equipment is smart enough to do some diagnostics and send out an alert, saying the reason I’m not operating properly is you’ve left the door open or the hauler outside left off his control when he was emptying it or there is required maintenance,” says Warren. “Rather than there just being an indicator light, the newer technology now sends that out to the right person or maintenance or operation department to alert them to an issue that needs to be addressed.”

End-users are asking for extended life design, says Warren.

“We’ve been looking at components that wear, so our new self-contained Clean-Pak design shields the components from the wastestream,” he says. “Prior to this innovation, all compactor cylinders were exposed to the wastestream and that degrades their life cycle because the acidic material eats away the cylinders and wears out the hoses.”

The new technology—with hydraulic cylinders and hoses outside the charge box area—enables a safer environment for persons doing preventative maintenance or repairs as they do not need to clean behind the ram, where waste can build up.

“They don’t have to get into the middle of all of that trash—which could include medical waste or other hazards—and dig it out just to service the equipment,” says Warren.

Clean-Pak self-contained compactors use a standard Wastequip 10-hp tri-volt power unit and a patented compactor head designed to ensure effectiveness and power.

Cylinders and hoses are enclosed behind large removable panel doors on both sides of the compactor. The doors can be opened outward or lifted off bullet hinges.

The unit also features a built-in hydraulic reservoir spill pan to contain and drain hydraulic oil in the event of a leak. Quick disconnects are available for either right or left applications.

The unit is available in 20- and 25-yard sizes and compatible with standard containers with dual-end cable pickup/hook option. The hopper can be fed from ground level with either a 90-degree door, an angled door at 56 degrees for dock loading, or no door for through-the-wall feeding.

Maren Engineering manufactures recycling balers that handle a variety of materials: recycled corrugated containers, ABS plastic, molded fiber products, newsprint (including ONP), mixed and office paper, magazines and signatures, shredded corrugated, shredded paper, tissue mill broke, dust and wood chips, textile, foam, PET and HDPE bottle, plastic film, aluminum can (UBC), steel can, steel sheets and forming, carpet and padding, aluminum radiator, aluminum wires and clip, and copper wire and clip.

Baler capabilities enable waste operators to maximize efficiency in post-consumer recycling, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, distribution and warehousing, document destruction, and byproduct waste.

Maren Engineering’s offerings include horizontal auto-tie balers, two-ram balers, and full ejection manual tie balers.

While compactors and balers are somewhat set in how they work “simply because there isn’t any new way of making the cylinders move back and forth or compressing the material, there have been improvements in how this is done to make balers more efficient,” says Williams.

Almost all new technology has focused on how the material is processed through the sort lines, ensuring that almost all material that is recyclable is being pulled out of the wastestream, he adds.

“In addition, we have new technology being applied after the bale is produced either in wrapping or bagging the bales to make them less intrusive to the environment around the landfill or while being transported,” says Williams.

Hart concurs that the essentials of baling have changed little, but adds that there has been a trend in higher pressure units to meet customer demand for denser bales.

“Data reporting is being used more widely and bale counts, run time, and other information can be gathered to generate reports and show trends,” she says.

Balers and compactors are among the types of equipment offered by BE Equipment, which services and sells new, reconditioned, and used recycling, waste reduction, and solid waste handling equipment.

Jonathan Mann, national sales manager, BE Equipment, points out that in incorporating balers and compactors into an MSW operation, “as a supplier, we need to know their ultimate goal. What type of products do they want to handle? What materials do they want to handle? What is the throughput they want to handle? How many tons or pounds per day or week so we can provide them the correct piece of equipment?

“It is always better to reach out to a company like ours while building a bid spec versus just looking online and putting together a bid spec with multiple different pieces of equipment because that doesn’t always necessarily result in a solution that they can actually purchase,” he adds. “There’s a lot of specific nuances that are needed to identify the current pieces of equipment and that discussion with the representative is key for them to get the right piece.”

Important considerations in choosing balers focus on material type, says Mann.

“Is it all corrugated? Is it just small residential drop-off, which would dictate a smaller machine versus a much larger municipality that wants to handle cardboard, bottles, cans, aluminum, steel? That would result in a completely different type of machine as well as a different type of space because obviously, they need to design the machine to fit in the existing space or design the space for the machine they need.”

The same holds for trash compactors, he adds. “Is it general trash? Is it wet trash? Are we talking bulky trash? Do they have the ability to take large boxes or large crates, pallets, and even large furniture that they have to dispose of, which would result in a different type of machine versus mixed-waste type compactors?” says Mann.

Mann points out that some of the manufacturers BE Equipment represents are incorporating more smart technology into the compactors or vertical balers to help better track the material that’s going through the machine.

“If it’s a municipality, they can ­actually bill for each pound going in there if they needed to or track for each pound by resident going in there,” he says. “If it’s more of a commercial scale, they can keep track of their tonnage to keep everybody on an honest level playing field.”