The benefits of compaction

Features - Equipment Focus | Compactors

Why investment in commercial compactors is good business for owners and haulers.

October 9, 2018

Retailers, supermarkets, warehouses and other large-scale commercial businesses generate high volumes of waste. This waste can not only take up a lot of space in a facility, it can also necessitate frequent service. In order to help better manage and neutralize on-site commercial waste, many business owners choose compaction as a way to mitigate these issues.

Understanding the cost benefits

The more trash pickups a business requires, the greater the cost. Therefore, reducing the volume of waste produced via compaction is an easy way for businesses to cut into their waste expenditures.

Bill Wilkerson, national marketing manager for Lenoir, North Carolina-based Pinnacle Compactors, says while the ratio of waste compacted depends largely on the composition of the waste material, compaction ratios can be as high as 6 to 1 for some more easily consolidated waste streams, although 3 to 1 is closer to the industry standard.

“As a rule of thumb, you can expect a 3 to 1 ratio in terms of waste reduction from having a compactor,” Wilkerson says. “So, for instance, if you have an open-top container being picked up once a week and you’re paying $200 per week, that’s $800 per month. With a 3 to 1 compaction ratio, you’re going to haul that material once a month, so you go from $800 to $200. You still have to rent the machine, but you’re saving that money, and you don’t have to deal with that truck on your property. In all, I’d say you can expect maybe a 60 percent savings in your hauling costs with compaction.”

Besides helping reduce collection costs, compactors can also help businesses save on labor by reducing employment costs associated with the time and effort it takes to break down waste and carry it to an outside container for disposal.

Amplified safety and security

Less hauling frequency also equates to fewer collection trucks on the premises, which is a big deal for some commercial operators who don’t want to deal with the ongoing disturbance and wear and tear of on-site collection trucks.

Wilkerson says commercial locations like airports that have heightened security protocols or those that require more peace and quiet like apartment complexes are best served by using compactors to cut down on traffic.

Compactors also prevent unauthorized access by securing confidential information or valuable merchandise.

Additionally, compactors can make for safer businesses since employees don’t have to break down waste manually, go outside to throw trash away in locations with chute-enabled compactors or deal with the presence of increased heavy equipment traffic. Compactors also can help reduce fire hazards by containing potentially combustible materials.

Improved sanitation

Since self-contained compactors help sequester waste and its byproducts, compaction is a much more sanitary means of disposing waste.

According to Wilkerson, the sanitation benefits of compaction are a leading reason why business owners invest in this technology.

“A couple years ago, we did a survey of end-users on why they’d consider compaction, and it was a little surprising. I thought that cost savings would be head-and-shoulders the No. 1 reason business owners would implement this technology since it reduces the number of trips a hauler needs to make, but surprisingly, what was termed ‘housekeeping issues’ was tied with savings as the most important feature,” Wilkerson says.

Because sealed compactors help reduce odor and access to waste, this equipment is ideal for businesses that could be prone to insect or rodent infestation.

“You need two things for bacteria to reproduce, heat and liquid, and you have both of those in a normal trash can or dumpster,” Wilkerson says. “A compactor is sealed, so you’re helping contain that smell up to a point. Also, if you have an open-top container, you invite bugs and rodents. A container helps greatly limit that since it’s sealed and contained. There are some cities in the South that actually require the container to be sealed for this reason.”

Sealed compactors also help prevent wind-blown trash from escaping the container. This means less litter, cleaner facilities and less time needed for waste cleanup.

Selling compaction

Compactor use can not only be beneficial for the end-user, it can also be good business for haulers as well.

“As a hauler, when you’re putting an open-top container into a business, there might not be any contract there or just a 30-day contract,” Wilkerson says. “It’s considered temporary business. When you put a compactor in, there is a capital outlay that requires a financial commitment. So, businesses will sign a 3- to 5-year commitment with a hauler and that’s considered permanent business, and haulers love permanent business. Haulers love permanent business because that means they’re not losing customers. Plus, haulers know that if they aren’t the ones selling compaction, their competition will. And as a hauler, once you get that commitment and that long-term contract, you don’t have to send the truck out as often which greatly improves your fleet efficiency.”

However, before a hauler can sell a business on compactor use, it is important to understand a business’s unique pain points when it comes to disposal.

“For a hauler salesperson to adequately profess the benefits of compaction, they have to do what is known as a site survey,” Wilkerson says. “You can’t talk about the benefits of compaction over the phone. You have to go in with a tape measure and see what equipment fits the space and what type of waste stream you are dealing with—is it wet or is it dry? This can tell you if you need a stationary or a self-contained unit. Then, you have to measure the material going into the compactor to tell you the volumes you’re going to be dealing with. You can’t go in and try to sell the benefits of the equipment without knowing what a business might need the equipment for.”

Wilkerson says hauler salespersons should keep the aforementioned list of compactor benefits in mind to offer a solution that best fits a customer’s needs.

Compactors can make for safer businesses since employees don’t have to break down waste manually, go outside to throw trash away in locations with chute-enabled compactors or deal with the presence of increased heavy equipment traffic.
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“As far as the size, the industry standard for a stationary compactor is 40 cubic yards,” Wilkerson says. “A self-contained unit is a little different because wet waste is heavier, so the industry standard is 35 cubic yards. You go a little smaller because you don’t want it to get too heavy. Roll-off truck gross vehicle weight is usually 62,500 pounds. That’s the total weight of the truck and the payload, so you want to limit the weight of the material to make hauling easier. That’s why you might recommend a smaller self-contained unit if the incoming material is very wet.

“For businesses with wet waste, you need equipment that can contain that, so you steer them toward self-contained units,” he says. “If you’re dealing with dry waste, and the material itself is large, you go with a stationary unit that is large enough for the material to easily fall into the charge chamber so it can be packed into the container without a problem. You don’t want material that is 60 inches by 60 inches being forced into a container with a 60-inch by 40-inch feed opening, because then you have to work to manipulate the material before it goes in, which is a headache.”

The bottom line for selling the benefits of compaction and building a happy customer base, according to Wilkerson, revolves around showing business owners how new equipment can improve their processes.

“If you’re enabling the customer to keep a clean site, you’re more apt to keep that customer,” he says. “If you have liquid retention and you’ve controlled the odor, that makes for customer satisfaction, and if you’re saving a customer money every month on their waste removal needs, you’re going to be able to keep that customer for a long time.”

The author is the editor for Waste Today and can be contacted at