The Latest Technology in Compactors and Balers
Whether it’s going to a landfill or a recycling facility, waste must be compacted and packaged for easier handling and efficient transportation to its destination. The compressed material takes up less space, thus reducing the number of trips needed, resulting in cost savings and reduced greenhouse gas emissions from transport vehicles.
Built to reduce costs, improve safety, and enhance the appearance of the facility, compactors and balers are intended to make the wastestream cycle easier and more efficient.
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“Retailers, warehouses, supermarkets, and other institutions depend on compactors to reduce the size and volume of waste and recycling material by compressing [it], making it easier to store and handle,” says Kirk Warren, director of product management for the steel division of Wastequip. “Compactors also prevent unauthorized access or disposal of material by ensuring waste and recyclables are contained, which improves both safety and appearance for businesses.”
Compactors are used to compress general waste, bulky waste (such as pallets and furniture), wet waste, and recycling, says Jonathan Mann, national sales manager for BE Equipment. He explains that choosing the right machine can help reduce labor and provide the best return.
You need the “right amount of force to maximize cans,” continues Mann. A compactor must also be fast enough to handle your stream, with a large enough feed opening. It also must be located in the correct place for the wastestream and for hauler access, meaning the plant must have the proper layout, including full weather enclosure.
Both compactors and balers are typically used at the point of waste generation and collection because businesses want the most efficient means of handling, storing, and collecting available, Warren explains. He suggests a site survey, which identifies the appropriate equipment based on the wastestream, volume, material size, and allotted space. Because both pieces of equipment are expensive and are designed to last for many years, it’s important that their selection meets the site’s needs today and tomorrow. “The site survey is a key step to achieve a clean, safe, and efficient means of managing waste and recycling material.”
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Balers handle recycling streams, Mann states, so they must be correctly sized for the volume and matched for the specific recycling stream.
That’s important, says Brian Mihm, director of sales for two-ram and Macpresse balers, Sierra International Machinery, because if the material isn’t properly prepared for transport or is too light to maximize weights, it costs the processor money in handling and added transportation expenses.
Balers are used to reduce volume in order to make it easier to ship materials to be recycled, confirms Mike Schwinn, American Baler Company. “Why bale? To make it easier to ship for reuse and recycling. A good bale is a shipping necessity. Typically, the name of the game is to make bales heavy enough to cube out a trailer (42,000–44,000 pounds) or sea container for export shipments.”
Bales need to be uniform in weight and stackable—a big issue, Schwinn says. “The number one way to get hurt is by a moving vehicle, but number two is if a bale falls on you.” Some stack at a lower height for added safety, but because maximizing space in the trailer and container is a necessity, low stacking is inefficient.
Density is the key, Schwinn continues. “You want every pound to count.” To improve density, American Baler Company uses a unique design: a single tension system in which the main cylinder compacts, with friction on the top and sides. “It produces good tension, making heavy bales.”
Other manufacturers use a dual system, Schwinn says, with up to six cylinders on the sides of the channel and on top. “The pressure is not synced, so it doesn’t produce uniform force. The mechanics of our design creates density, which results in higher bale weights, less maintenance, and [fewer] strings to manage.”
If the baler isn’t sized to handle the material or can’t manage bale weights (due to a small cylinder) to maximize truck weight, you can vary the length of the bale, but it doesn’t affect density, so the problem is only partially relieved.
Baling is the last process before loading, Mihm says. Where it goes depends on the arrangements. “Some goes to waste-to-energy plants, some to landfills.” He says some locations store baled trash during the summer for shipping, including long journeys from Africa to Norway.
Figuring out what to do with waste has always been a problem. In the 17th century, New York City used to dump trash into the streets. Later, they began tossing it into the ocean before ultimately deciding to use some of that to build into additional real estate along the city’s shoreline.
Nearly 7,000 tons of residential mixed solid waste is collected from residential accounts every day, according to The Guardian. Figures from the New York Daily News are higher. The News estimates that the city exports 25,000 tons of garbage daily because its landfills don’t have room for it, sending it to Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and other places.
The Orwak 5030 hoisted with bag
For 20 years, the US has sent recyclable waste to China, which processed half of the world’s exported plastic, paper, and metal in 2016. That year alone, the US exported 16 million tons of waste to China. This arrangement made it crucial to pack uniformly sized and weighted bales for shipment by sea.
In 2017, China alerted the World Trade Organization that it would begin banning the importation of 24 categories of solid waste this year. Among those categories are plastics, unsorted scrap paper, and waste textiles. This decision follows the 2013 Operation Green Fence campaign to block low-quality and contaminated waste, and 2017’s National Sword program of strict enforcement.
The reasons behind each of these steps include concern for the environment and for public health, due to “large amounts of dirty wastes and even hazardous wastes” mixed in the solid waste that seriously pollute their environment, according to officials in Beijing. Contaminated waste also led to more costs, which, along with the rising cost of labor in China and a simultaneous fall in the demand for raw materials, contributed to the decision.
China’s refusal to import the world’s waste has had a ripple effect, with recyclables now piling up with nowhere to go. Whether it goes to the landfill or to a recycler, the waste still needs to be densely compacted into uniformly sized bales for transportation.
Location, Location, Location
Proper placement of compactors and balers can reduce labor and handling time. “The baler is toward the end of the process,” says Mihm, “after the material has been sorted. Once the material has been baled, it is now ready to be loaded onto a truck or container.”
Location is equally important for back-of-the-house compactors at medium and small businesses, such as quick service restaurants where there’s not enough waste or space for a rolloff. Orwak North America offers two machines for this scenario: a general waste compactor and a mini baler, mainly for cardboard and plastics, which is then sold to recyclers in order to reduce the volume and amount of waste going to the landfill. These smaller machines are suitable for businesses that require fewer pickups, says Mark Lanning, president. Many can be placed inside the back door.
“As the waste world evolves, the thinking is changing regarding recycling and composting,” says Lanning. Thoughts about recycling are changing; laws have already changed. For example, California has a “different concept of how waste is handled,” with requirements for a recycle zone system in Los Angeles, aimed at improving recycling and lowering costs.
“We bring the benefits to smaller businesses.” He says new and smaller haulers prefer small bale collection, where competition isn’t so heavy. “The challenge is to find recyclers to pick up small bales.” In Los Angeles, Washington DC, and New York City, that challenge has been met by building route density to entice haulers.
Orwak also provides large customers with a way to recycle secondary commodities, Lanning notes. “It’s important to fit the right machine to the volume, the right tonnage.” Their compactors range from a 20-inch to a 60-inch, feature two chambers with a sliding head, and are capable of processing cardboard, waxboard, shrink film, miscellaneous twos, hand wipes, and cleaning supplies. “It’s designed to be like a mini-MRF.” He says Orwak has a supermarket customer in Florida using 50–60 units next to their balers.
Another Orwak customer in Hawaii generates 6–8 tons of plastic film every month. They separate and bale it, and sell to an incinerator—but it has to be clean. “A clean stream is more valuable,” explains Lanning, adding that he considers the best time to separate is at the point of generation. “Our philosophy is that if you separate at the source, it gives the operator the advantages of saving space and providing a cleaner area and it increases value due to a cleaner stream and increased density. Instead of throwing it into the compactor, throw it into the baler—it’s the path of least resistance. The cleanest sort possible is the cheapest way to sort.”
Credit: Sierra International Machinery
Wrapping operation with Sierra International Machinery
The single-phase balers have plug-and-play ease, are reliable, and provide good compaction, Lanning says. Orwak incorporates 1/2-inch polyester banding instead of wire. “It’s soft, safer, easier to use and store, and makes it faster to tie off the bale,” explains Lanning, pointing out that the banding is widely used in Europe.
Other advantages of the Orwak balers include safety, speed, and sound. “They’re quiet,” says Lanning. “That makes for a pleasant end-user experience.” They’re quieter due to a regenerative oil system that creates higher pressure with smaller motors, and because the motors are on the side, under a cover—which not only produces less noise but also affords easier serviceability.
Like any baler, they can be adjusted to suit the stream, capable of handling HPDE and LPDE. “Just read the barcode to know how to process,” elaborates Lanning.
Electronics is the buzz word for balers. “You can program them for different materials,” emphasizes Mihm. “Most of the new technology in baling equipment has been in the electronics and programming. In our balers, you can set up the program to run per material, since a material like PET bales much different[ly] than newspaper.” For example, because newspaper has no memory, you don’t need pressure to knock out any air, but PET needs more strokes to get the air out. Simply identify the material and set the program to bale it.
Electronics can do more than just run the right program for a stream. It can provide production reports by shift, which can be downloaded to an Excel spreadsheet. Information included in a production report might be quantity, the number of wires, and the kilowatts used. It can help the operator with directions when needed. The program also gives error messages, and if the machine has extra sensors, it can even produce a picture with the error message.
Many technological advancements have driven productivity, increased equipment life cycle, and enhanced safety. These advancements include sensors, monitoring, “watchdog” timers, and more. “Sensors detect pressure and monitor fullness, alerting operators when to schedule pickup service,” says Warren. “With sensor technology, customers are able to make data-driven decisions to avoid unnecessary trips and anticipate haul schedules, which saves them time and money.”
Through monitoring, operators can gauge actual usage by automatically tracking compaction cycles that indicate when preventative maintenance is due. Better maintenance leads to less downtime and extends equipment life, which eliminates lost time and additional money spent on equipment. “Watchdog” timers prevent unintended operation that can result in motor burnout and component failure.
Other innovations such as flooded suction power units and kidney-loop filtration keep the hydraulics cleaner and extend life, Mihm comments. Previous systems saw the motor or pump mounted on top of the tank. “Oil falls into the tank; gravity keeps it primed. A kidney loop—an external loop—keeps the oil cleaner.”
The typical life of a pump is 6,000–10,000 hours; a cylinder gets up to 20,000 hours, depending on both the quality and the style—vein or piston (which lasts longer). The product report indicates if the oil filters were changed and can reveal a dying pump.
Mihm lists other features Sierra offers, such as dual motors and more efficient power units to save on electrical costs, as well as higher ram face pressure to reduce shear jams and produce heavier, more uniform bales.
American Baler offers a jam buster or stamper (for a bigger machine with a wider body) to keep the area clear and clean the material in the shear area. “It’s an important innovation because of the automation, as well as the safety side—keeping humans out of the machine,” says Schwinn. When material falls into the shear area, a photosensor sees it and the material is pushed out of the way, using knives to cut, if necessary. “The biggest challenge in cutting is that over time, tolerances get looser, so it doesn’t cut as well. You need tight tolerances. If you cut too much material, it jams on top of the shear bar. If you’re feeding over the top of the hopper and put in too much material, it can jam.” The sensor tells the ram when to compact; if there’s a jam or if there’s no material, it waits until it’s either clear or full.
BE Equipment horizontal balers feature laser positioning that makes it easier to control rams. A drop-down end wall on two-ram horizontal balers by International Baler can push out a jam and make relining easier.
Their vertical balers feature bilingual touchscreen controls that make it easy to troubleshoot and built-in weigh scales to maximize and track bale weight. Their compactors also have built-in weigh scales to ensure maximum loads and to track the load, and they include biometrics—a fingerprint security feature for operating the machine.
While most balers push the wire to the twister/cutter, American Baler’s machines grab it from the other side, pull and twist. “It’s a unique tying mechanism for auto-tie balers,” elaborates Schwinn. “There is string wire on both sides, but instead of pushing it, our balers pull it.” Pushing can result in missed wires and can force too much material, which causes unreliability. Pulling brings less material with the wire, producing better ties and heavier bales, he observes.
Tying can be an issue with two-ram balers, and if the tying system is inoperable, the baler is stopped. A channel, or single-ram, baler can still operate with other wires if there’s a tying issue, so there’s no downtime, says Brian Wells, director of product management for Bulk Handling Systems, the exclusive distributor of Kadant PAAL balers, Europe’s leading baler manufacturer that markets primarily channel balers.
Single-ram balers are capable of being the only baler in a MRF because they can bale OCC, paper, plastics, and metals, Wells says. “The Konti/Likon range of balers are a true multi-material baler, capable of processing all types of recyclates.” High throughputs (up to 90 tons per hour) and the ability to process high bale weights assists in handling different types of materials.
Other advantages of a single-ram baler he lists include increased production capability, flexibility with bale length, ease of change for different materials, smaller footprint, cheaper consumables with less usage, and no contaminant of bales when changing grades.
PAAL uses smart electronics and hydraulics to produce denser, more uniform bales that are square and stackable, along with a new shear blade cutting design that shears more effectively and reduces stress on the hydraulic system. “These innovations, along with ease of access for maintenance and servicing, result in less downtime of the baler and increase productivity.”
Remote diagnostic capabilities requiring just an Ethernet connection allow PAAL to “dial in” and monitor the machine’s performance and alter settings. They also offer other communication devices capable of interfacing with a MRF control system for data collection.
Perhaps the most significant innovations in the Kadant PAAL range of balers over the last decade are efficiency and reliability, Wells surmises. “With energy costs continually increasing, we have developed several changes, including high-efficiency axial piston pumps, which use less electricity but increase throughput.”
Ultimately, Mihm cautions, balers are mechanical, so you will have a problem that requires relying on the manufacturer or distributor to diagnose and repair. Because Sierra stocks all replacements parts all the time, downtime is limited. “I have heard stories of other manufacturers quoting six-plus weeks for a major component like a pump or cylinder,” he says. Downtime impacts revenue. Considering that waste costs are already up, that can have a devastating effect on a facility.
The Importance of Baling for Recycling
Fourteen tons of trash are generated in New York City each year—reportedly more than any other American city and necessitating 1,668 city collection trucks (in addition to nearly 250 licensed private haulers catering to the city’s commercial accounts) to haul it away. About 20% of it is incinerated and converted into energy at a waste-to-energy plant. A considerable amount of the rest ends up in a landfill, despite New York law requiring source separation (paper, metal, glass, plastic, non-recyclable mixed solid waste) and separate collection to encourage recycling.
“Single-stream [collection] is designed to get engagement, but it’s not good for recycling,” believes Lanning. “You want to divert to recycling as much as possible.” However, when there are no separate categories and no sorting, the quality suffers and recycling efforts diminish. Schwinn suggests that financial incentives increase recycling and baling.
Customary items that are baled for recycling, according to Mihm, include cardboard, mixed paper, newspaper, cans, plastics such as PET and HDPE, MSW, C&D, light industrial waste, hay, agricultural materials, and even tires, although he says they are less common.
Baling recyclables removes material from the wastestream and diverts it from landfills. In cities where there is no recycling program, baled recyclable materials can encourage recycling companies to pick them up. Even if recyclables are sent to incinerators or landfills, baling them reduces the amount of space they take up. This cuts down on transportation and greenhouse gases as well as the amount of dwindling landfill space needed.