Better Bundling

Balers and container compactors serve an important function in the waste industry. By pushing collected solid waste and recyclables into dense blocks, they allow as much material as possible to be placed into a truck for transport to another destination.

Manufacturers agree on some basic issues to consider when buying the devices. Thinking through the issues will allow waste firms to purchase the baler or container compactor best suited for them, which can mean maximum transportation efficiencies.

Equipment Considerations

Buyers should determine the volume of waste that the baler or container compactor will have to immediately handle, says Kevin Bennett, inside product manager for Winamac, Ind.-based Galbreath Inc. For instance, vertical balers are designed for facilities that process a small quantity of materials for baling. Meanwhile, single-ram horizontal balers often are used in medium-production facilities, while dual-ram horizontal balers are used in high-production sites.

Shoppers should also estimate how much that volume will grow in the future. The size of the purchased item needs to reflect the anticipated increase. Particularly in the case of a baler, careful consideration also should be given to the types of material that it will handle. (Often placed at retail and business properties, container compactors collect a variety of solid waste.)

Experts say talking with other industry members about their experiences in purchasing balers and container compactors is important. Doing so will give perspectives on the product that a manufacturer may not provide.

First-hand knowledge of the machinery youƷre interested in buying is crucial, says Ken Loest, president of Broomfield, Colo.-based K&K Environmental LLC, the North American representative for FAES-PAAL baling equipment, CrossWrap bale wrapping and SSI shredders. “ItƷs always a good idea for a customer to travel to a location where the baler equipment is operating and observe the unit. It is also wise to talk with the operating and maintenance people at a facility to determine baler performance and reliability,” he says.

Buyers also should investigate the ongoing technical support that a baler or container manufacturer can provide, Loest says. “Spare parts must be readily available and trained service technicians available,” he says.

Echoing LoestƷs recommendations, Bill Wilkerson, vice president of sales for Vernon, Ala.-based Marathon Equipment Co., says carefully examining the company selling the equipment is paramount to making a wise purchase. “The most important issue customers should consider when buying balers and compactors is the overall stability of the company,” he says. “This stability is directly related to the quality of the equipment, the level of service you will receive, and the value realized over the life of the equipment.”

While shopping for a baler or container compactor, a firm may decide it wants a product with certain special features. For instance, some balers contain a self-diagnostic computer system that can help to minimize downtime, says Richard Harris, managing director of Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sierra International MachineryƷs Recycling and Solid Waste Division.

Some of the products also have time-saving features, Loest adds. For example, certain baler models can eject untied bales into a telescoping tunnel that holds the bale until tying takes place. There, the bale is tied separately from the baling operation. “This design allows baling to continue while bale tying is underway … resulting in a significant increase in baler production rates,” he says. Other special features for balers include automatic bale ejection systems and lights that indicate when a bale is about to be ejected.

In the end, solid waste firms should not get too hung up on the purchase price, considering the increased operational savings that a good baler or compactor can provide a company, Loest says.

After all is said and done, buyers want a product that is going to provide the most density possible considering financial and operational circumstances. “The most important issue is end results,” Harris says. “It is critical to have equipment that has a proven track record for uptime, reliability [and that generates] maximum density for both transportation and final placement [in a landfill].”

Training and Safety

After a new baler or container compactor has been purchased, the employees who will work with the product should be properly and thoroughly trained, both to protect the safety of the workers and to make sure the device performs at an optimal level. Buyers should make certain that manufacturers provide technical and safety manuals and operator training as part of the equipment purchase, Loest says.

Training should come from a factory representative or a consultant well-versed in the safe operation of the individual machine, Wilkerson says. After initial training, maintenance programs should be put in place so that workers are continually reminded of the safety standards, he says.

“Operator training and re-training is essential for the end-results success of any facility,” Harris says. A firmƷs maintenance staff and equipment operators must be trained.

Training for container compactor and baling equipment should ideally be a mix of on-site and classroom work. “The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries offers detailed safety videos that are excellent for new and existing installations,” Harris says. “These are graphic videos, and they scare people into behaving themselves.”

The purchaser of a baler or container compactor also should make sure that the product adheres to federal and local safety requirements as well as American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards, says Gregory Leon, director of sales and marketing with Philadelphia-based PTR Baler & Compactor Co.

Tying It Up

Purchasing the baler or container compactor that is best for a company requires a thoughtful analysis of many factors, from the current demands of an operation to its future expansion. However, by taking a detailed analysis of the issues facing an operation, purchasers can make sure they select the product best suited to their needs. And, by ensuring that employees are properly trained and refreshed on operational procedures and safety matters, they can ensure that the investment continues to serve the firm well for many years.

Carol Badaracco Padgett is a contributing writer based in Atlanta.