Keeping Your Recyclables Safe and Sound

Keeping Your Recyclables Safe and Sound

The bale storage area at a recycling center is not typically the recipient of much attention. Not much happens in the bale storage area as finished bales of commodities are moved in, stacked and stored until the material is sold and shipped. While the majority of a manager’s time and attention will be focused on the actual processing of material, the bale storage area does play a critical role in the overall material management process at a recycling center.

The bale storage area refers to the space that is designated for the storage of processed recyclables. Materials are stored in the area until the bales are sold and shipped to a mill for further recycling. There are several important considerations for establishing and operating a safe and secure bale storage area:

Size: The bale storage area should be of sufficient size to safely store various commodities. The bale storage area should allow forklift operators to safely move materials and allow for the safe loading of trailers that are picking up bales of materials.

Inside and Outside Storage: Some commodities such as cardboard, newspaper and office paper are best stored indoors where they are protected from precipitation and sunlight. Paper fibers and other recyclables need to be kept dry as high moisture content can result in downgrades or rejections of commodities. Some commodities can be stored outside depending on the environment and provided that the quality of material will not be degraded as a result of outside storage. Materials that are stored outside should be stored on a paved surface to minimize dirt or mud on bales. Using tarps to cover bales that are stored outside is a good practice to prevent the degradation of commodities.

Security: The bales of finished products have a value and should be protected against theft. Metals such as aluminum, brass and copper can be an inviting target for theft. To prevent loss, managers should regularly inventory the bale storage area and use security alarms and camera systems to enhance security at the recycling center.

Safety: The bale storage area should be well lit so that forklift operators can see clearly as they move and stack bales and load trailers. Bales can weigh more than 2,000 pounds and must be properly stacked to prevent falling as a bale can crush a person resulting in serious injury or death.

Fire Protection: The bale storage area should have a high volume sprinkler system to retard the spread of a fire. Additionally, bales should not be stacked too close to overhead sprinkler heads, which could reduce the effectiveness of a fire suppression system.

Housekeeping: The bale storage area should be clean and well-maintained so that bales are not contaminated by excessive dust, dirt or other contaminants that could result in loads being rejected or downgraded. Bales should be neatly stacked in a manner that complies with federal, state and local regulations and codes that govern the stacking of bales to address safety and fire protection concerns.

Inventory Control: An inventory of bales in stored in the bale storage area should be done on a weekly or monthly basis. Bales should be rotated so that material is not stored for an extended period of time. Old newspaper will begin to turn yellow over time, while steel and other ferrous metals will rust.

Training: The forklift operator is the quarterback inside the bale storage area. He or she is responsible for the placement and movement of bales. Training is a necessity for forklift operators who must focus on safety and the proper movement of bales. Bales should always be moved by lifting them off the floor to prevent contamination that can occur when bales are slid across the floor. Forklift operators should minimize the number of times a bale is moved to reduce the risk of breakage.

Bale Inspection: Bales should be regularly inspected to check for moisture content and quality. Contamination issues should be immediately addressed by changing in-bound material, improving operations along the processing line or handling material more effectively inside the bale storage area. Additionally, many mills have on site inspectors who review bales for quality prior to shipment in an effort to eliminate the rejection of loads and ensure the delivery of quality materials to mills around the world.

A well-managed bale storage area is an important part of a recycling center and can increase operational efficiency and eliminate double handling of material while preserving the value of the products that are being manufactured at the recycling center. Focusing on the bale storage area and properly storing commodities will help managers obtain higher prices for materials that are produced at the recycling center. Importantly, managers will face less risk of downgraded or rejected loads when materials are free of contamination, clean and dry. 

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