Finding the right baler or compactor for your business

Features - Equipment Focus | Compactors & Balers

With the number of different balers and compactors on the market, finding the right one for your business takes a little research.

April 27, 2018

photo: Adobestock

It is common for business owners to find themselves in a predicament when looking for the right type of recycling and waste equipment for their operations. Equipment often requires a significant investment, and with the number of options of balers and compactors on the market, it can be difficult for businesses to narrow down which solution is the correct one. Investing in the right waste management system can help a company cut costs and increase its efficiency.

Here are four factors every business owner should consider before choosing a compactor or baler for his or her operations:

  1. The quantity of material that needs to be processed: The first aspect that should guide a business owner’s equipment purchasing decision is the quantity of material that needs to be processed. Every business processes different volumes, and it is crucial to assess how much a given piece of equipment will be tasked with handling before deciding on a solution. Balers and compactors come in a multitude of sizes and can run anywhere from a thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the price tag coincides with the complexity and amount of material the piece is able to handle. Before investing, a company should be clear about the amount of material it intends to process and recycle every week and choose accordingly. It never makes sense to overpay for capacity a company doesn’t need, but settling for an undersized unit can also result in money being left on the table due to lack of efficiency.
  2. The lifespan of the equipment: Compactors and balers are under constant stress, which is why durability is a concern. It is important to understand what a piece of equipment’s lifespan is before making a purchasing decision. Companies should research the expected longevity of the equipment and ask for accurate information related to part replacement and service intervals that may be required for upkeep. Understanding these concerns can help to factor in equipment downtime and allow a company to better budget for its needs.
  3. The type of material being processed: It is vital to measure the overall efficiency of a piece of equipment before purchase. Different balers and compactors work to condense different types of materials. The nature of one’s business and the materials that are being disposed of or recycled will influence the piece of equipment that is right for each company. Choosing the right system can help a company ship its waste and recycling more economically and reduce the need for pickup.
  4. The capacity to use the equipment safely: Waste and recycling handling can be extremely dangerous. This is especially true for businesses that use equipment like balers and compactors. This type of heavy machinery has a lot of moving parts and crushing rams that can be dangerous or deadly if operated incorrectly. Companies should look for equipment that has safety features to handle materials in a way that ensures proper working conditions for their staffs. Also, proper equipment handling is a must to help prevent accidents on the job, so companies need to invest in training to help protect workers.

Understanding the differences between balers and compactors

Balers and compactors are both effective tools for reducing the size of the materials getting processed. The difference is that balers are used for processing recyclables while compactors help reduce trash volume.


Balers help pack large quantities of recyclable material into condensed packages for easier storage and cargo. They also allow for increased commodity values by maximizing the value of each bale. Typically, balers are used to crush recyclable materials such as cardboard, paper, plastics and metals. Balers are traditionally split into two categories: vertical balers and horizontal balers.

The vertical, or downstroke, variety crushes materials from above with a top-to-bottom motion. Vertical balers often have a smaller footprint and are used to process smaller quantities of material. As such, these balers can often be handled by a single person as they manage small to medium volumes of waste.

Horizontal balers, on the other hand, work by compressing materials in from the side, are wider than their vertical counterparts and can handle greater loads. Because horizontal balers usually produce larger sized bales, they may help a company realize larger rebates that are offered for bales that are 60 inches in diameter or greater. The size and type of the material being processed, the overall capacity needs of an operation and the desired bale size should all factor into deciding which type of baler is right for a company.

photo: Adobestock

Benefits of using a baler:

  • Makes for lower cost of disposal
  • Provides a hassle-free and cleaner work environment through easier recycling processing
  • Can help generate additional income depending on the material and volume of the waste being processed
  • Makes it easier to handle and store materials in-house


Trash compactors help reduce large volumes of trash in a contained area. Compactors can handle different kinds of waste and reduce the size of the waste to make it easier to handle and transport. Less waste means fewer pickups, which can save on waste collection, hauling and transportation costs.

Types of compactors

Different types of compactors serve different functions. Here are some differences between the most common compactors on the market:

  • Breakaway compactors: Breakaway, or stationary, compactors are designed for heavy commercial, industrial and mini transfer station use. These types of compactors are designed to feed compacted dry waste into a container, which can then be picked up by a roll-off truck. These are constructed to handle above-average quantities of waste.
  • Self-contained compactors: Schools, large restaurants, supermarkets, hospitals and hotels can use of self-contained compactors that are efficient at handling wet waste. These are leak-proof and have the benefit of being able to control insects and odor for more sanitized conditions.
  • Vertical compactors: Vertical compactors are ideal for commercial locations with limited space, such as restaurants, grocery stores and apartment complexes. These compactors are used in spaces where hauler access may be limited, as they can be transported by hand to be tipped when full.
  • Transfer station compactors: Commercial and municipal transfer stations as well as recycling centers need heavy-duty compactors that can handle high volumes (upwards of hundreds of tons per hour). Transfer station compactors condense materials directly into transfer trailers to be landfilled.
  • Precrushers: Precrushers can be used in conjunction with industrial compactors and to break up bulky waste before it is disposed. Precrushers reduce volume and can help maximize load weights. These are often used to compact things like white goods, furniture, crates and pallets. Precrushers are often found in construction and manufacturing applications.

Benefits of using a compactor:

  • Makes the loading and transporting waste easier
  • Bundles compressed by compactors take up less space, which reduces cost of transport
  • Helps make unwieldy bulky waste more manageable
  • Optional bin tipping feature is available on some models and is designed to reduce manual handling
  • Self-cleaning compactors are available that cut down on maintenance, cleanup and odors

As with any purchasing decision, talking with equipment manufacturers and other business owners can help companies better realize their equipment needs, which can make it easier to find the right baler or compactor for the job. wt

Erich Lawson is the online marketing manager for Compactor Management Co., a compactor, baler and container service headquartered in Fremont, California, that serves cities in the San Francisco Bay Area, Northern and Southern California and Oregon. He can be reached at