Balers, traditionally found in material recovery facilities (MRFs) that process a commercial and residential recyclables, create compact cubes of material to maximize truck loads.

In the aforementioned types of MRFs, the baled commodities include paper grades, metals and plastics. Many of these same materials are found in construction and demolition (C&D) debris begging the question: Why aren’t balers common pieces of equipment in C&D recycling facilities?

“Installing a baler certainly requires more labor, but when you manage the dollar value you get on it, it grossly outweighs the costs of labor by a long shot,” Kevin Herb, managing partner of Broad Run Construction Waste Recycling in Manassas, Virginia, says. “Why people aren’t baling in C&D—I don’t get it.”

Herb says baled material is cleaner, making it a product with higher value. In addition, bales allow more material to fit inside a trailer, which means fewer trips and lower hauling costs.

“Any business person is in business to make money and the return on investment (ROI) is something every decision-maker looks at and makes a decision on,” Herb says. “In this case, the return on investment is excellent.”

GETTING WHAT YOU PAID FOR

Broad Run accepts dirt, cardboard, clean white dimensional lumber, aggregates and 5-gallon high-density polyethylene (HDPE) paint buckets. Once processed, the dirt serves as medium grade topsoil and fill material. The cardboard is shipped to West Point paper mill outside of Richmond, Virginia, and aggregates are sent to local concrete crushing plants.

Broad Run Recycling in Manassas, Virginia, uses a Marathon horizontal baler to bale cardboard.

Broad Run has baled cardboard since it opened in 2008 using a Model CE-504842-830 manual tie horizontal baler from Marathon Equipment based in Vernon, Alabama.

Since its installation, Broad Run has been putting together seven cardboard bales per day. It wasn’t until February 2014 that Herb and his crew began recycling plastic paint buckets and installed a second manual tie horizontal baler from Marathon, a Gemini EX, on the processing line.

“We were just throwing them away and there was no extra labor to pull the buckets out from the waste stream. The pickers were standing there anyway,” Herb says.

Pickers pull around 23 tons of bucket per month from the debris stream, Herb says—enough to fill one tractor trailer per month with the material—enough to make two bales of plastic buckets per day. And with a baler already installed on the paper line, there was no need to add an additional employee.

It takes an employee around 13 minutes to remove a cardboard bale from the baler, tie it and put it in the storage area. Plastic buckets take a little longer—35 minutes.

“There’s more time involved (for the buckets) because of the paint that gets into the cans,” Herb says. “That’s the problem—it’s certainly longer on the plastic baler than the cardboard because of cleaning the paint.”

Herb decided to place the balers underneath the picking stations in his systems for efficiency. Employees pick material off the belt and drop it down a chute and into a baler. The placement, Herb says, is more “natural” than conveying it into the piece of equipment. “The cheapest way is letting gravity do the work,” he says.

Installing the baler for the plastic line took around one day, Herb says, and while the labor of installation caused an increase of labor and time temporarily, it soon paid off. According to Herb, it took Broad Run three months to get ROI on the cardboard baler installed in 2008. Another ROI element Broad Run considers with baled material is the decreased trucking time.

“If it isn’t baled, it’s loose, and if you’re transporting it loose, it’s going to be ten times the amount of hauling,” Herb says. “These bales are 1,600 to 1,800-pound cardboard bales, almost a ton a piece, so you can only imagine if that was loose in some kind of container or compactor.”

With baled buckets weighing at 800 pounds per bale and the state of Virginia’s truck weight limit at 25 tons, baling allows Broad Run to get the most out of the weight requirement.

“You can get that maximum weight with baled material because it’s highly compressed,” Herb says.

CUTTING THE LOSSES

Recovery1 in Tacoma, Washington, currently uses four balers at its carpet recycling facility—a Harris 100-HP 2 Ram horizontal baler with an autotie system; a Lummes 15-HP horizontal close end manual tie fiber baler; a Walters 15-HP vertical manual tie fiber baler; and a Max Pak 15-HP manual tie vertical foam baler.

Recovery1 rented its first baler in 2000 to bale nylon-6 (N-6) face fiber carpet and sell it to Evergreen Nylon Recycling in Augusta, Georgia.

Baling items such as cardboard in a C&D facility can increase value and maximize truck loads.

Evergreen shut down in September 2001 because, according to Recovery1 General Manager Terry Gillis, the facility could only process N-6 carpet, and over the last 5 to 10 years the material decreased in popularity over polyethylene terephthalate (PET) fiber, which is manufactured from recycled bottles.

In 2003, Shaw Industries Group in Dalton, Georgia, purchased the Evergreen facility, and Recovery1 purchased a used Marathon Gemini horizontal, closed-end, manual tie baler with an infeed conveyor to bale N-6 for Shaw.

In 2007, Recovery1 replaced the Marathon baler with the Harris baler. In that same period, Gillis says, Recovery 1 began baling mixed film plastic and mixed rigid plastic for Asian markets and cardboard for a local papermill.

The Harris baler was used to bale aluminum at a nearby nonferrous recycling facility, but with the Recovery1 crew’s “technical expertise,” Gillis says, it was reconditioned to meet the company’s carpet recycling needs.

“Employees at Recovery1 have built most of the equipment we use to process C&D and much of what we have purchased from equipment manufacturers has been modified by Recovery1 personnel to meet our specific needs,” Gillis says. “Having employees with the skills to fabricate equipment enables us to recondition equipment as well. The crew fabricates, maintains, repairs and rebuilds our equipment as needed.”

Though the baler was “much larger” than needed, Gillis says, it was a good opportunity to expand Recovery1’s capabilities. The baler was used for N-6 carpet, Nylon-6.6 carpet, carpet pad, cardboard, mixed film plastic, mixed rigid plastic, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe and PVC fencing and siding.

In 2011, Recovery1 purchased the Walters baler to experiment through baling nylon fiber extracted from whole carpet. In 2016, the company opened an entirely new recycling facility and purchased the Lummes baler to capture face fiber extracted from whole carpet through two processes developed in-house. The company shifted the Walters baler to capture mixed fiber. Later in 2016, Recovery1 rented the MaxPak baler to bale carpet pad.

The second carpet recycling facility is shutting down, Gillis says, and the company will sell the Lummes and Walters balers and return the MaxPak baler to the rental company. This is because, according to Gillis, the value of postconsumer nylon has dropped significantly, along with the value of postconsumer PET. Gillis says Recovery1 decided to simply “cut the losses and move on.”

While baling in a C&D facility may be valuable to some, such as Broad Run Recycling, Gillis says it’s difficult to make an argument for balers and their ROI.

“Baling in a C&D plant gives the operator an opportunity to divert a portion of the materials coming in with commingled C&D debris into commodities that may have value in the marketplace,” Gillis says. “However, most of what is baled is plastic and the plastic markets for materials extracted from mixed C&D range from poor to nonexistent.”

The author is assistant editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at hcrisan@gie.net.