Knowing Your Options

When shopping for a baler, shredding companies have many factors to consider

By Jeff Dietterich
As published in Storage and Destruction Business, December 2009

The baling of shredded documents is an important aspect of most secure destruction businesses. It provides a means for effective materials management, revenue generation and increased information security. The revenue generated from the sale of the baled material can be significant when properly managed. The value of the baled material is historically stable over the long-term but can be subject to short-term volatility. In-house baling of the shredded documents allows companies maintain tighter control over the chain of custody and the ultimate destination for these materials.

Baling is almost always employed in plant-based shredding operations. Mobile shredding operations often add on baling capability to take control of fleet management and routing that is otherwise dictated by the availability of a local recycler. Many mobile shredding operations find that they can reduce their fleet or forgo a future shredding truck purchase as a result of more efficient and effective management of their current fleet. A side benefit of baling for these operations is the ability to easily provide plant-based shredding as an additional service to their customers.

There are only a few different types of balers that are used for baling paper in the secure destruction industry. Baler selection depends primarily on the material to be baled and the volume of material to be baled in a given amount of time. Balers are sometimes used to bale secure and recyclable commodities other than paper. These applications are usually very specific and sometimes require specialized equipment.

Horizontal balers are commonly used to bale shredded paper processed by a plant-based shredder or a mobile shredding truck. The horizontal baler utilizes a hydraulically driven compression ram that moves horizontally to compress materials that have been loaded into a vertical chute. This type of baler is available in manual-tie, closed-end and open-end designs. An auto-tie unit is an accessory on most open-end balers. Lower-volume applications typically call for a manual-tie baler. Auto-tie balers are generally used in applications of 60-100 tons or greater per month.

Baler throughput is dictated by the main pump motor size and the diameter of the main ram hydraulic cylinder. Generally speaking, the higher the horsepower, the more throughput. It has been demonstrated that horizontal baler throughputs often exceed the manufacturer’s published capacity charts when baling shredded paper from mobile shredding trucks. This is because the paper discharged from the trucks is partially compacted already and is denser than shredded paper processed through a plant-based shredder. Therefore, you will need more horsepower to bale 5 tons of shredded paper per hour from a plant-based shredder than you would for the same amount of paper from a mobile shredding truck.

Vertical balers are commonly used to bale OCC (Old Corrugated Containers). The material is hand loaded into the baler hopper and the baling ram moves vertically from top to bottom to compact the material. After each compaction stroke, the ram retracts so that more boxes can be loaded into the hopper. When the bale chamber is filled, a buzzer activates to let the operator know that it is time to manually insert and tie-off the bale ties.

New customers sometime ask, “Why not use my horizontal baler to bale my OCC too?” The problem is that, a) you don’t want to mix the OCC with the shredded paper, and b) you would need to store about 1,000 pounds of loose OCC somewhere in order to make a mill-sized bale. It’s just more practical to have a dedicated low-cost baler for the OCC that is generated. However, in very high volume applications, a dedicated horizontal baler may be a better choice than a vertical baler.

Balers can be a big-ticket item, so many first-time buyers look to used equipment an economical way to get into the baling business. A high quality, well-maintained baler can provide many years of service, but price alone should not be the deciding factor. When considering the purchase of a new baler versus a used or reconditioned baler, there are a few things to keep in mind and a few questions to ask your equipment provider.

First of all, do your homework. Get to know the basics about the equipment before investing your hard earned money. If you’re looking at used equipment, ask about the age and history of the baler. Get the make, model, serial number, and specifications. Manufacturer’s product literature and photographs are helpful. Make sure that the equipment owner’s manual will be provided and that the manufacturer will fully support the equipment going forward. Make sure you understand the warranty limits. Know what costs are covered in the purchase price: Cost items such as freight, unloading, installation, electrical work, start-up and operator training are often not included in the purchase price of the baler unless they are negotiated up front. Insist on having your personnel trained in the safe and proper operation and maintenance of the baler. Make sure there is a local resource that is trained to provide technical support and field service.

When it comes to used equipment, deal with an equipment provider that specializes in baling equipment. Many equipment sources such as brokers, on-line auctioneers, liquidators, and even Ebay can sell you a baler. However, they cannot tell you if the equipment suits your application, has been tested for proper operation, or meets current safety requirements. An experienced baling equipment sales professional will know how to match a baler for your specific application, have the resources to repair and rebuild baling equipment in accordance with the best industry practices, and support the installation and service of the equipment.

New equipment is generally available through manufacturer’s representatives or dealers. The representative or dealer usually has a long-standing relationship with one or more manufacturers and can provide all of the services required to make sure that you get into the baling business the right way and support you along the way. Ideally, they will be familiar with your business model and know what is important and relevant to your application. They should be able to supply ancillary equipment such as conveyors, shredders, and related equipment. An equipment dealer will also be willing to provide a fair trade-in value for existing equipment. If the dealer is not local enough to provide timely field service, they should identify and train a local resource to provide these services. It is very helpful if the dealer can provide evening and weekend telephone support as these are the times that you will most likely be baling and the equipment manufacturer is not available to take your call.

Baling is an integral part of successful secure destruction businesses. It brings value to the bottom line in many different ways. Making the proper equipment selection does take some effort and when properly done provides a valuable return on investment for many years.