Balers can save a waste processing facility time and money by reducing disposal costs, improving operational efficiency and ultimately extending a landfill's life.

But how do you determine if a baler fits your needs and which model to buy? The following steps should help you decide.

1. Determine your baler needs. Don't waste time looking for a baler before you know your needs. Identify the types of material you plan to bale and define what you want your baler to do, including how much material will be transported to the baler, and what volume per year, per month, per day and per hour you expect it to handle.

If you don't have a high enough volume, consider sending materials out-of-house. Don't spend thousands of dollars purchasing and maintaining a machine that seldom will be used.

Once you know you have sufficient materials to bale to justify the purchase, talk to a reprocessor about what bale size and weight he would like, and what revenues you can expect.

You also should consider the shape and size of materials to be baled for spec'ing purposes. What will your largest piece of material be? Will it be whole pieces or shredded? Will the baler be handfed or will there be enough volume for conveyor feed?

A 20-inch by 30-inch by 36-inch cardboard carton will become 51 inches wide as it turns to enter the baler, says Frank Lederer, CEO of Lederer and Associates, Jacksonville, Fla. "Even with a 50-inch wide baler mouth, boxes may get stuck."

Also consider how the bales will be loaded once the material has been compacted. Will you transport the bales to the reprocessor or will he pick them up? If you're providing the transportation, do you have a flat bed trailer, a closed van trailer or will you send bales by shipping containers?

In all cases, you want to ship the maximum tonnage per load, and you want bales that will fit in your trucks.

2. Do your homework. Before you contact any sales representative, do your own research via buyers' guides, such as Waste Age's July issue; trade shows, such as WasteExpo, Wastecon and the National Recycling Coalition show; the Internet and discussions with other users. Also, visit a facility that uses a baler similar to the one you need.

In determining the baler's specifications, consider electric power costs, hydraulic oil costs, wire cost per bale, maintenance costs, spare parts availability, domestic vs. foreign parts and lease or buy options.

When RRT Design and Construction helps a customer choose a baler, "material through-put is the most important factor," says Michael Jones, systems engineer manager for the Melville, N.Y.-based company. "The type of product to be baled drives the size and type of equipment."

When selecting a baler for a company, RRT looks at the material throughput, the required density and the markets and costs from an equipment price and operating standpoint.

"We want to make the fewest number of bales as dense as possible to reduce shipping and handling cost," he says. "From there, the space available in the plant and the [plant] layout are factors."

Normally, Jones says a customer will have a particular brand name or type - single-ram or two-ram - in mind. [See "Are Two Rams Better than One?" page 58.]

3. Query manufacturers. Evaluate the offerings and prices from at least three manufacturers.

With each manufacturer, observe the baler you need in operation at a nearby facility. How many of those balers do they have working in the field? Will they provide you with a current list of user names and phone numbers? Do they have a show-and-tell installation you can visit? Review the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) safety standards to make sure their equipment is up to par. [See "Using Baler Standards to Increase Safety," page 61.]

Examine what the warranty covers. A one-year warranty is standard, but you may be able to purchase an additional service plan where a manufacturer will inspect the machine, including the wire-tie system, periodically.

"On both single- and two-ram balers, the wire-tie system typically is the biggest problem," Jones says.

Also, ask the company about product liability insurance.

Beyond the equipment itself, check each manufacturer's engineering and financial support. Who supplies their components? Can they provide a complete system - in-feed and a bale take-away system?

Furthermore, what customer service support can you expect after your purchase? Do the companies live up to the delivery date they promise? Do they have a factory "baler care" program?

A company's longevity also should be a consideration. Look for a reputable company, but age does not ensure quality, Lederer says. "When you're green, you grow; when you're ripe, you can be rotten."

Remember that training is important, too. Generally, a manufacturer will provide installation and start-up service, including a check of components and controls, Jones says. "From there, the price of the baler normally includes a day or two of on-site training."

However, most of the larger baler manufacturers also offer "baler school" at an additional cost. This typically is three to five days of intensive, hands-on training at the manufacturer's plant on baler operation, emergency shut-down procedures and daily maintenance.

Training operators is crucial for both single- and two-ram balers, Jones says. "Single-ram balers may work in automatic mode without having a full-time operator, but if you let a two-ram baler go, there's a tendency to overpack a bale and the machine gets jammed," he says.

Both baler types must be monitored, and training is the same for both. Once your employees know enough about the baler's design, they can make simple adjustments to the machine without calling maintenance, Jones says. The costs for "training, travel and personal expenses can add up, but it's worth it," he says.

After you've completed all the homework, determined your needs - including material types, waste amounts to be baled, bale density desired, future volume predictions and your budget - and compared competing manufacturers' equipment and services, you should be ready to buy.

Balers are either open- or closed-end types. A closed-end baler has a door at the end of the chamber; an open-end baler pushes the bale out and requires an "auto tie" system.

Auto-tie balers are either horizontal single-ram or two-ram. A single-ram baler is fed by a conveyor that moves in sequence with the baling operation. Materials travel through the "in-feed" to an open charging box where they collect. A photo eye tells the machine when the box is full, then the ram pushes the materials into a chamber for baling and automatic tying.

With single-ram balers, the compaction force moves in the same direction the materials exit the baler. Because materials are baled in the chamber, a bale's density is determined by the force occurring against the other bales in front of it.

Following the same feeding principles as single-ram machines, two- ram balers have one ram to compact and another to push the bales out. Because materials are being pushed against an opposite wall instead of against bales, two-ram bales generally are denser.

Two-ram bales also are more uniform and use less wire-tie. Single ram bales can vary from 36 inches to 60 inches on the same baler, and tend to expand after exiting.

Single-ram balers are less expensive, have a high throughput and can make a large number of bales per hour. However, they can't bale scrap metal and odd-shaped materials. A single-ram's strength is baling paper products, except large pieces of cardboard.

Two-ram balers can have a larger in-feed chute and are more expensive. Two-ram balers are good for operations processing varying product types and grades.

To determine what baler size you'll need, consider these guidelines:

6-inch cylinder - For use where volume reduction, not bale density, is important. Can bale small, corrugated boxes; general waste paper; and light trim shredded or non-shredded waste paper found at printers, grocery stores, etc.

7-inch cylinder - For shredded or trim lightweight paper for maximum base density, as well as shredded or trim corrugated (uncoated) material for minimum weight (up to 1,200-pound bales).

8-inch cylinder - For use where capacity and bale density are equally important. Can bale shredded or trim corrugated, box board, fiber board and chip board material all with or without polyethylene or wax coatings.

10-inch cylinder - For use where maximum bale density and high-capacity is needed. Can bale the same materials as the 8-inch cylinder.

Baling Equipment Safety Requirements (ANSI Z245.5-1997) are among the industry's best-known safety standards. Although originally published almost 20 years ago, they have undergone several revisions, the most recent being approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), New York, in 1997.

ANSI Z245.5-1997, developed by the Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) Z245 for Equipment Technology and Operations for Wastes and Recyclable Materials, defines the safety requirements for baler manufacturing, rebuilding, installation, maintenance and use. It applies to manufacturers and equipment users, both employers and employees.

The standard's clauses include:

* Lockout/tagout of hazardous energy sources;

* Drive mechanism guarding;

* Installation requirements;

* Construction, reconstruction and modification requirements;

* Safety markings and signs;

* Operational requirements for employers and employees;

* Start-up alarms; and

* Loading chamber requirements.

Why should you comply with these standards? Because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, D.C., recently issued compliance directives citing this standard as a reference. This means that OSHA officers are encouraged to use ANSI Z245.5-1997 when evaluating compliance with the General Duty Clause, Machine Guarding, Control of Hazardous Energy Sources (lockout/tagout) and other regulatory standards.

The bottom line? By not complying with ANSI Z245.5-1997, your company could receive an OSHA citation plus enormous penalties. And, the potential for workplace injuries and workers compensation claims and litigation will increase if you don't follow safe procedures.

ANSI Z245.5-1997 is published by the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), Washington, D.C., and is a companion to ANSI Z245.2-1997, Stationary Compactors Safety Requirements. EIA also publishes ANSI safety standards for mobile collection equipment, commingled materials recovery facilities and waste containers.

To order the ANSI Z245 standards, contact the EIA publications department toll-free at: (800) 424-2869. For information about the family of ANSI Z245 standards for waste and recycling, call Nate Wall, secretary of the ASC Z245 Committee, at (202) 364-3709. E-mail: nwall@