Balers were first designed as machinery for use on farms to deal with hay and straw. They would cut and compress the material into bales that could then be easily handled, transported and stored. Different balers produced rectangular or cylindrical bales, that were bound with wire, twine or netting.
Today the most commonly used hay baler produces a bale which is round in shape. The machine to first produce this was called the Roto-Baler, and was launched in 1947 by Allis Chambers. Nearly 70,000 were sold by the end of its production in 1960. By 1975 fifteen companies throughout America and Canada were manufacturing balers that produced round bales.
Another type of baler produced large rectangular bales, each bound by twine. These bales are very compact and can outweigh the round bales. The rectangular bale has gone on to be the shape produced by the waste balers of today.
A small number of companies adopted the round bale to roll the waste, which was then wrapped in plastic to hold the material together, similarly to the round bales of hay.
As the number of people employed in agricultural farming has been in decline over the last century and farming machines have become more efficient, companies manufacturing farming equipment began to look for other ways to increase their productivity. As they had the experience of manufacturing hay balers it was an easy transition into manufacturing waste balers.
Waste balers and compactors have been produced in some form or other for around one hundred years. The first balers were manually operated utilising a handle and ratchet device to exert force to compact material and hold it in its compacted form.
The first known patent for a compactor was registered in 1941 by MS Wells who lived in the United States. This invention was to compact oil cans utilising hydraulics. Other types of compactors began to be produced using similar devices. Another such invention was for use in kitchens, its inventor was John Boyd, who was also a resident of the USA. He designed a compactor providing hydraulic pressure utilising water.
During the same year Stephen Hopkins, a co-worker of Boyd’s, produced a compactor for apartments and offices, the hydraulics being driven by electricity. Boyd and Hopkins both worked for the Compackager Corporation. This was the first company to begin production of compactors and to introduce them to the market.
Although these early compactors were developed to simplify the movement of waste in offices and apartment blocks, by reducing the volume of waste, it gave rise to the idea of building much larger machines to compact general waste.
General waste produced in factories was being thrown into small bins and skips which were collected by municipal trucks, as occurs today in city centres and homes. Cardboard and other recyclable materials were collected loose, stored first in stillages or tied up by hand awaiting collection. The costs of transporting uncompacted waste was considerable.
A compactor is a machine which reduces waste volume in a container. Material is thrown into an enclosed chamber. Then a start button is pressed, a ram moves forward and compresses the waste material into one end of the chamber. This process is repeated until the chamber is full and ready to be collected.
There are two types of compactors: static and portable. The former model differs from the later in that only the container of waste is collected for disposal, by first being released from the ram section, whereas with the portable model, the whole unit is collected and taken away to dispose of the waste.
Both these types of compactors are generally sited outside of a building where they are accessible for collection.
Machines were also developed to compact waste inside containers. These containers or bins ranged in size from 240,360,660 and 1100 litres. Waste is thrown in by hand until full, whereupon companies would collect for disposal. A charge would be made for the rental of the container as well as for the collection.
Companies soon realised that if they could compact the waste in the bin, the number of collections would be reduced and possibly the number of containers required, thus not only saving money, but also valuable space.
This gave birth to the introduction of “In Bin Compactors“. These compactors can reduce waste volume in a container by up to 5 to 1.
The compactor is usually bolted to the floor in an area where bins and containers can easily be wheeled. The lid of the bin or container is opened and the unit moved into position under a press plate, designed to fit the opening. By pressing a start button on the machine a motor is activated. A control lever is then operated which sends the press plate down into the container, in doing so it crushes down the waste. When it reaches its full stroke, the lever is reversed and the press plate returns to its rest position.
In the same manner, 40 yard containers which are used to dispose of much bigger volumes and larger forms of waste, such as wooden crates and window frames etc. suffer the same problem, when collected without any pre-compaction.
The solution to this problem was to design a machine born out of those already in use at landfill sites. These vehicles used to roll across the waste, have been fitted with heavy steel rollers to help compact the waste as they roll over the site. From this a machine was designed. A large frame was built to support a heavy steel roller mounted on the end of an arm. This device would be lowered into the container where it would be set to traverse back and forth crushing material in its wake. To aid destruction heavy spikes were mounted on the roller at varying angles. This type of equipment although much more costly than smaller compactors, has proven to be more economical when used over a period of time.
Other forms of equipment also referred to as a compactor were developed to either process smaller volumes of waste, or specific types of waste. These machines usually compact material and then eject into a plastic bag to prevent the waste from breaking apart. Alternatively a plastic bag is inserted into the unit and waste is introduced, which is then compressed by means of a press plate. A Rotary Compactor is a much bigger version of the aforementioned model. Waste is again thrown into the plastic sack where it is turned and compacted by a rotating roller that is covered in spikes or paddles depending on the type of the material being compacted. The roller arm slowly rises until the bag is full. A light illuminates on the machine to indicate the full bag is ready for removal.
Bespoke compactors for material such as polystyrene reduce the volume utilising a steel worm drive which breaks down the polystyrene and extrudes it into a plastic sack.
As legislation was introduced to promote recycling, and companies were forced to start giving more consideration to their methods of waste disposal. The use of the static and portable compactor for the reduction and disposal of all types of waste was no longer seen as the best way to deal with recyclable waste as it was not being separated.
It became necessary to start segregating recyclable material such as cardboard, paper and plastic. This in turn meant that a method to reduce the volume and make it manageable and economical for transportation was necessary. The design of early compactors evolved into waste balers. The early balers were driven by a ratchet or worm drive. Modern versions are now driven by hydraulics pumping oil to drive the press plate.
The type of waste and the volume determines the size of baler required. Models range from single chamber 240 volt units exerting up to 6 tons pressure that will produce a bale of card or plastic weighing between 25 to 80kg up to what is known as a millsize baler which is driven by a 3-phase 415 volt supply and exerting pressures up to 50 tonnes, to produce bales of card and plastic weighing up to 600kg which can be taken straight to the mill for reprocessing.
Generally any bale under 430kg is deemed unsuitable for the mill and would have to first be taken to a waste transfer station to be re-baled to form a Mill-bale. The benefit of the millsize baler is that it is less labour intensive, revenue is earned for a millsize bale and not for smaller bales. However, unless sufficient volume and space is available, it is not viable to use a millsize baler.
To deal with greater volumes of waste large horizontal balers were built. These models again produce mill-size mill and operate as semi-automated or fully automated systems. The semi-auto unit can be hand or conveyor fed into a large hopper where material is then compacted in a chamber until the bale is ready. The bale is then tied off with wire or twine by hand. The automated system is normally conveyor fed and compacted in the same way as the semi-auto unit, but the tying off process is done automatically prior to the bale being ejected onto a pallet.
Twin-chamber versions of the vertical balers are manufactured normally in a mid-range 6 ton model and a 20 ton unit. The purpose of these balers is so that waste can be segregated. One chamber being used for cardboard and the other for plastic. These twin-chamber machines can also be supplied with additional chambers, making them a versatile option if a company has more than two types of waste to be baled.
Apart from the standard forms of balers already mentioned, there are bespoke machines designed to deal with specific material. They consist of models such as Drum crushers designed to compact drums from 25 litres up to 205 litres. Manual units have been designed to deal with smaller 5 litres cans and tins. Even a wall mounted kitchen drinks can crusher can be purchased for home use.
Briquetting presses were built to deal with material that could not easily be baled, such as polystyrene, wood shavings, aluminium cans and P.E.T bottles.
Some P.E.T bottles still contain liquid, therefore systems were designed to spike the bottles during the crushing process to release the liquid which was then caught in a drip tray under the machine.
Glass Crushers both for use inside busy bars, restaurants and clubs have also become popular to reduce the volumes of glass bottles, cutting down on the number of glass collections needed. In addition, the disposal of glass cullet late at night into bins is considerably quieter than empty bottles.
Glass crushers can be utilised in the bar area or in a designated area close by. Models are available to receive one bottle at a time, or larger volumes.
Most recently, the growing demand for a machine to reduce the volume of food, saw the introduction of a system to reduce food waste by dewatering, reducing the weight of food by up to 80%. These have become very popular in restaurants, schools, colleges and universities, as well as corporate head offices with a number of restaurants.
In some of the larger establishments with land surrounding the building has meant that a composter linked to the food waste dewatering system has been the answer. This cuts out any food disposal costs altogether. A macerator and dewatering combination also in some areas allows disposal straight to drain.
Balers and Compactors are now manufactured all over the world. Other than the introduction of specialised models to deal with waste such as wood, glass and polystyrene etc. the shape and appearance has changed little over the years. However, there are companies which will sometimes produce a by-product of their manufacturing process that cannot easily be compacted in a conventional machine. They would then approach a manufacturer to provide a solution for them. A Bespoke machine then becomes the answer. Samples of the product are usually required for testing under compaction, feeding the machine is then considered, as well as handling the product following the compaction process. From this information a machine can be designed and built. Building this type of equipment can only be served best by a manufacturer, as a distributor or agent does not have the in-house capability to deal with such a project.
Without the invention of compactors and balers, recycling would not have been practical, as the movement of loose un-compacted waste would have been uneconomical, as well as harmful to the environment.
Most established suppliers of waste balers and compactors can offer financial packages to suit all budgets. From outright purchase of new and used equipment to rental options inclusive of maintenance.
Due to their robust design, the lifespan of a machine when properly maintained by qualified technicians can be over twenty years, ensuring that owning a baler or compactor is a sound investment for any company, especially as the costs to remove and transport waste will continue to increase annually.