Auger Compactor vs. Baler

Auger vs Vertical Baler and Horizontal Baler

Balers have been used for decades to convert old corrugated containers (OCC) into a product ready for the recycler. Past studies have shown that OCC once comprised more than 20 percent of all solid waste entering the nation’s landfills, so baling this material for recycling made both economic and environmental sense.

Baler styles range from low-cost but labor intensive vertical downstroke units to various types of automated high-cost horizontal systems. Balers are typically installed indoors and are powered hydraulically, with a comparatively slow press-and-retract processing cycle. Only in limited applications are they a cost effective investment.

Where balers fit, and where they don't
baler manual feed vs auger conveyor feedOCC is a commodity and an important feed stock for corrugated cardboard mills. Each month, the industry publishes regional prices that the mills will pay per ton of OCC. For certain high-volume generators of waste corrugated, such as retail outlets with internal trucking operations, balers can have a place.

The distinguishing characteristic of these facilities is that product is shipped in bulk containers from the distribution center to the retail outlet. Store personnel unpack the containers, then flatten and stack them on a cart for transport to the baler. These pre-flattened cartons are a key element in reducing the labor costs of loading a baler. The bales are backhauled to the distribution center for truckload shipment to a mill.

But most other commercial businesses - drug, restaurant, office supply, hardware, clothing and furniture chains, catalog houses, online shopping sites, and independent wholesalers - operate differently. Bulk product is unboxed at the warehouse/distribution center, then delivered in smaller quantities to stores and individual customers, often packed in standardized, stackable, reusable containers. Warehouses are not staffed to flatten containers, let alone be in the baling business.

Some, however, have been convinced by baler manufacturers, dealers, brokers and the mills to hire additional personnel and buy a baler. Many who have done so are now asking "Why?"  Why bother with baling at all? Why devote all the required manpower, valuable floor space for the machine and stored bales, and the added maintenance typically necessary for hydraulic equipment to a recycling program that could easily cost more money than it generates? Maybe it’s time to ask what business they're really in, to "think outside the baler" and rethink the whole process of getting OCC to the recycler.

A better, faster, greener solution
The Komar Auger Compactor doesn’t merely flatten corrugated - it tears it up into small pieces and feeds it directly into a roll-off container ready for hauling to the recycler. No bulky bales to handle, store or take up space. Check out these eye-opening benefits of the auger compactor:

  • Significant labor savings. A vertical baler takes just under a minute to complete a single cycle. The operator can load about 10 lbs. of unflattened boxes per cycle, which adds up to about 90 minutes of cycle time to complete a typical 950 lb. bale. Loading time, including fitting and arranging the cartons to fit the small 25" high feed opening, averages 40 to 60 seconds per cycle. Tying, ejecting, staging and manually loading bales onto docked trailers adds another 20 minutes, bringing the total to about three hours to process one bale. The Komar Auger Compactor needs only a part-time loader. It handles full-size boxes, eliminating the need to break them down to fit into a baler. The powerful auger compactor screw is always moving forward, shredding, feeding and compacting 10 to 12 tons of OCC into a 40 yard container in less than half the time it takes to produce a single half-ton bale. Again, zero time is required for bale handling. Labor savings with the auger often exceed 80 percent.
  • Saves space. The auger compactor and the receiving container are located outside of your building and can operate in virtually all weather conditions. All interior floor space can be devoted to productive operations - all recycling activity is done outside.
  • Eliminates spring-back. During the ram retraction phase of the baling cycle, pressure is relieved on the waste material, allowing it to return to its pre-compression position and hindering the feeding operation. The one-way shredding action of the auger eliminates this problem by changing the composition of the material and applying constant pressure against the compacted waste in the receiving container.
  • Low maintenance. The Komar Auger Compactor is powered by a clean, energy-efficient electromechanical drive. There are no hydraulic pumps, cylinders, hoses or fittings that are prone to leak under high pressure, causing messy, unsafe, environmentally harmful oil spills that take valuable labor time to clean up. Not to mention the equipment downtime to repair the leak.
  • Safer. Manual loading, tying, removal and handling of bales often pose safety risks to the operators. Feeding the auger compactor is virtually the only labor function required, and this can often be done with cart dumpers, feed chutes or conveyors.
  • Lower costs. No baling wire to buy, back charges on incomplete loads, re-baling of undersized bales,or minimal cap price requirements.
  • Clean building, clean yard. No hydraulic oil spills, and no storage required for bales in the parking area, inside the building or in a trailer at a busy loading dock.
  • Benefits to the recycler. The shredding and tearing action of the Komar Auger Compactor screw reduces the volume of the corrugated boxes and flats and maximizes container loads for transportation to recycling centers. The piece size generated is highly desirable for the recycling center's high density balers that produce mill spec bales. This eliminates the need to break apart bales that do not meet weight or size requirements. Although you may be told that baled OCC will bring you top dollar, the fact is that there are many recyclers across the country who accept auger-shredded corrugated and pay a competitive price when compared to baled material.

With all these economic and environmental advantages, the Komar Auger Compactor naturally requires a higher initial investment than a vertical downstroke baler. Compared with horizontal baling systems, however, the auger is much more competitive. In any case, the primary focus should be the return on investment. Komar customers have reported that their auger compactors have paid for themselves in 2 years to as little as 6 months.

Quick payback is just one of the many good reasons to consider doing away with baling altogether.