Balers have come a long way since their introduction in the late 1800s. During the industrial revolution, the agricultural industry embraced them to remodel their traditional processes. The first types of balers were powered by horses on inclined treadmills. With each step the horse would take, the treadmill belt would turn the shaft which operated the chain, driving the plunger into the baler, compressing the hay.
Based on the same concept – the ‘plunging’ technology is still used today in the waste industry to compact recyclables to their minimal size, providing a wide range of benefits.
Balers are now an integral part of the waste management chain for all sorts of dry recyclables, including paper, plastic, polystyrene, mixed and food waste; generating solid blocks of highly compressed waste.
We often get contacted by business owners asking us for advice on balers. It’s difficult to give specific advice to each person we speak to, as the needs of every business differs. We have put together a list of the most common questions and answers to give you a rough guide to choosing the right baler for you.
Should I choose a horizontal or vertical baler?
Probably the most important question. With the vast range of balers on the market – firstly, you need to determine whether you would benefit more from a horizontal or vertical baler.
- Benefits of a horizontal baler
For higher volumes of waste, horizontal balers are usually a better option. A horizontal baler can process larger and denser volumes of waste, such as aluminium. The bales are also even in weight, making it easier for storage and for the end user to collect. Horizontal balers are very robust and built to last for years. Horizontal balers offer continuous loading, ideal for sites which have a fluid production process. They are more suited to industrial businesses and warehouses.
- Benefits of a vertical baler
A vertical baler is a good option if you have limited space. Vertical balers can now process much of the same material as horizontal balers. They are also widely available and cost a lot less than a horizontal. Vertical balers can also be used where horizontal ones would be infeasible, such as behind supermarkets, fast-food restaurants and petrol stations.
Does a baler save time?
With the blocks being compressed into neat ‘bales’ – the waste is a lot easier to move, saving man hours. The baling speed rate with some equipment is super-fast, therefore improving productivity overall.
Does a baler take up a lot of space?
The majority of balers can be used outdoors, so are an ideal solution for most businesses with limited indoor space. However, horizontal balers are very large, so it’s essential that you work out a proper project plan and site map when considering its potential fit on your site. You will also need to regard the surrounding space needed.
Vertical balers can be very high, so you will need to check the dimensions, doorways and openings. You will also need to think about future access for servicing.
Will the bales save space on the site floor?
Loose waste requires an enormous amount of space. It’s not uncommon for larger balers to produce bales of 60 cubic feet, with a weight of approximately 1,500 – 3,500 lbs, depending on the recyclable material. So for storage of the waste itself, they are an ideal solution.
Is a baler cost-effective?
Waste balers can save you a lot of money in the long run. The smaller your ‘bales’ of waste, the more rebates you may be able to receive on your waste packaging. A decent baler will have a high throughput rate, resulting in a labour-efficient, cost-effective solution overall. Most recycling companies charge per collection, so the less volume you have, the less you pay. For smaller businesses, a mini baler can somewhat reduce the costs associated with skips.
*Depending on the size of your business and waste loads, balers can reduce your waste costs by up to 90%.
Are balers safe?
The majority of modern balers are safe to use and have built-in features. Baler users may have concerns such as electrical and physical risks, however these are minimised if the proper safety procedures are in place, as with any equipment.
Balers can only be operated by appointed and trained operators and must be inspected before every use. Therefore, if you are purchasing a new baler, make sure you read the manufacturers guidelines and include this in your training. Many baler manufacturers will offer specific training when purchasing equipment from them and will offer additional training materials, such as manuals or videos.
What effect does a baler have on the environment?
By minimising waste, you improve the environment. Balers help waste management businesses comply with environmental regulations.
How would a baler improve best practice at my workplace?
A baler is a tidier option and is now industry-standard machinery in the majority of waste management businesses. If you bale your recyclables, you can potentially fit up to ten times as much waste on to the back of a truck. Collectors of the recyclable waste will also will find it a lot easier to collect bales than uncompressed waste, which is more difficult to handle.
Should I purchase a new baler?
A new baler will come with a manufacturers guarantee and the customer service and aftercare expected when purchasing large equipment or machinery. The guarantee, service and repair agreements will all depend on the individual manufacturer. A new baler will also have new parts and is less likely to break down.
Should I consider a second hand baler?
Balers really are built to withstand the test of time, but do bear in mind that with very old balers, there could be high maintenance and service costs involved with replacing parts. If you are considering a second hand baler, ask for the opinion of a serviceman in the industry or a baler engineer. You can always ask to look at the service history of the baler if you are unsure. Some balers can last for years and it’s not uncommon to see balers still in use after decades of service, so don’t rule out the option entirely.
Could I lease a baler?
Many baler manufacturers now offer a range of finance options to help businesses acquire the equipment they need. We talk more about asset finance on page 52.
How do I choose a manufacturer?
Some baler manufacturers will come and do an audit on your premises to assess the type of baler that would benefit you more. It’s essential that the baler is the right size and capacity for the volume and type of waste. Manufacturers will probably have a wealth of information on their website, including case studies, videos and testimonials.
It’s always best to shop around when deciding to make a large purchase decision or ask advice from other waste recycling companies, who may even allow you to do a site visit to see how their baler works for them.
Balers are becoming more sophisticated as manufacturers look at ways of reducing time, increasing speed and throughput, improve on engineering efficiency, and lessen the negative impact waste has on the environment. There are literally hundreds of balers to choose from, with some manufacturers bringing new products to market regularly, so it’s wise to know the basic jargon associated with them and what each technology means before you purchase:
- Increased bale density
The pressure mechanisms in modern balers are now more powerful than ever, resulting in increased bale density and lower transport costs.
- Pressure values
Pressure values are settings that can be altered in line with the characteristics of the recyclable. Some modern balers allow you to set the press values accordingly, resulting in a better bale.
- Ram force
The ram force is the velocity of the weight of the ram inside the baler. Some industrial balers can have a ram force in excess of 300 tonnes.
- Two-ram baler
Two-ram balers can accept different types of materials, such as ferrous and non-ferrous metals or aluminium and cardboard. They are ideal for waste management companies who collect more than one waste stream.
- High capacity balers
High capacity balers can generally accept more types of waste with increased volumes.
- Auto-tie baler
Auto-tie balers wrap the bales automatically and don’t require any hand tying.
- Automatic ejection
Automatic ejection function pushes the bale from the machine, saving the operator time in manually pulling it out.
- Double push system
Double push balers compact the waste twice, allowing for more density per bale.
- Automated operation
Automated operation means the majority of the functions can be set via the interface, reducing the need for a full-time, manual worker.