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Gaining weight: thick, heavy bales can be a solution to thin paper recycling margins.

Margins are paper thin in the paper baling business. While numerous factors restrict the overall efficiency of a paper recycling facility, recyclers can take steps to be more cost-effective. "They haven't changed balers much in the 35 years I've been in the business," says Tom Yanko, president of Associated Paper Stock Inc., North Lima, Ohio. His main concern is packing his 53-foot trailers full.

"You want to haul as heavy as you can," he says. He wants bales that are dense, a convenient size for his trucks and that don't fall apart.

DENSE VIEWPOINT. "The most important thing to do is to get good bale density," says Joe Szany, director of Nexgen Baling Systems and international sales at Marathon Equipment, Vernon, Ala. "A lot of people look for bale weight, but as density goes up, weight goes up. A dense 50-cubic-foot bale will save wire cost, shipping and storage versus a [larger] but less dense bale." In addition, denser bales are more stable when stacked.

Szany says that initial equipment cost should be a relatively minor consideration when buying a new baler. "It isn't the cost of the baler but the cost of baling," he likes to tell recyclers. Wire, labor and energy all add up, with wire being the No. 1 variable. (See "Tricky Trio," beginning on page 60.) Recyclers can take other steps to increase efficiency. One is plant design. "The plant needs to be designed to work in harmony with each component," says Richard Harris, managing director for Sierra International Machinery's Recycling and Solid Waste Division, based in Keller, Texas. Conveyors must feed material at a rate that is properly matched to the baler, he says. The floor must be managed so material is always being loaded onto the conveyor.

While it may disrupt operations for a few days and cost a little money to reorganize, the chore should provide both short-term and long-term benefits. "Better plant flow will increase both efficiency and safety," Harris says.

"If you see blank spaces on the loading conveyor you are not being as efficient as you could be," he continues. He says the best way to control such factors is to design plant flow to eliminate or minimize cross traffic. "Use a two-stage conveying system and the fastest baler your budget will allow," Harris advises. In fact, he says that, in many cases, a recycler can go from two or three shifts down to one with a faster baler.

Sierra and Macpresse recommend two-stage conveyor systems to feed material. They allow the operator to use the first, or lower, conveyor like a surge bin, while the second, or inclined conveyor, strips material away evenly so that consistent production is achieved.

Another possible savings with the right bales is they are heavy and the bale size is designed to maximize container loading. Two bales can be loaded side by side and stacked two-high, which reduces freight charges.

The factors that compromise baling efficiency can be minimized by using the proper charge box opening for the material to be baled, says Sidney Wildes, president of IPS Balers Inc., Baxley, Ga. Every baler has a charge box opening--the area where material must pass through in the baling chamber in order to be pressed into the bale.

"Many times people are confused and misled in regards to charge box size," Wildes says. "If it is smaller than the material being processed, you will experience a bridge of material in the hopper, which is one of the main reasons for inefficient paper baling," Wildes explains. Improper charge box opening, inconsistent conveyor loading, knife jams and improper material selection in the on-board computer can affect the efficiency of an operation.

"Use a pre-compression lid on balers that offer this feature," he advises. This helps eliminate knife jams and extends the life of the wear liners. Wildes also recommends hinge-side balers to minimize or eliminate bridging and knife jams.

Michael Stenson, international sales manager for Waste Processing Equipment Inc., Rainsville, Ala. (makers of Max-Pak balers) advises looking at baling as a three-part system with input, process and output.

"Your incoming material must be sorted and stored. It must be accessible and easily fed to the input of your baling process," he notes. During the actual process, the baler's infeed hopper and the baler cycle time are going to greatly affect throughput.

Baler infeed using self-dumping hoppers, conveyors, cart dumps or air conveyance will have a major effect on labor efficiency because of the added automation.

Once a dense, transportable bale with maintainable integrity is created, it must be moved to storage or placed in a container for transportation. During this output cycle, forklifts or lifts with bale handling clamps will be a factor in efficiency.

One efficient feed method is to use a crane and grapple to load the conveyor. Contaminants can be removed, blank spaces on the conveyor can be filled and overloaded sections can be adjusted easily with a crane.

"This is much safer than the traditional bucket loader and the operating expense between the two methods is noticeable," Harris says.

BIGGER NOT ALWAYS BETTER. While vendors are in near-universal agreement that a bigger baler will pay back the investment, not everyone agrees that size is everything. The arguments say that a faster baler will reduce labor and electrical costs while allowing the production time to run more profitable grades. Part of that equation depends on where you are in the chain.

"The fiber market has made a permanent shift toward exporting of material driven by the price of the material. The ability to ship container weights for export is not only important but in most operations, a matter of survival," Wildes says.

"A recycler should use the largest baler his budget will permit; even stretch yourself a little, and the payback will be fast," Harris says.

Stenson differs somewhat in his view on size. "Many variables go into determining baler size. "If your sorting and separating of grades and materials isn't efficient, a bigger, better baler won't make a difference," he says. If there are infeed bottlenecks say the conveyor is not wide enough or fast enough, its hopper is not easily fed--then a bigger, better baler would not change the situation.

"If a bigger better baler pushed the total system outside of the building constraints, it wouldn't help," Stenson says.

Building size and accessibility will greatly affect a paper baling operation, he continues. The logistics of raw materials receiving, storage and sorting will have a bearing on efficient operation. Logistical decisions for that workin-process flow are critical for efficient operation.

"The object of baling is to create a dense, transportable, bale with maintainable integrity, but the object of business is to ship loads to a purchaser, whether broker or mill," Stenson says. "Getting loads from finished bale storage to freighted container can keep the monies flowing and the usable plant space clear and available."

That's why Yanko likes to stick with the 60-inch bale size. He can stack them like a jigsaw puzzle, putting three deep and two longways in the truck. A 72-inch bale will allow stacking only three down the middle. "Bigger is not better," he says.

Yanko's goal is to get 42,000 to 44,000 pounds on each truck he runs--as close to the legal limit as possible. Hauling airspace does not help him meet that goal.

"A baling operation requires a fast baler which can bale multiple materials if required and produce high-density bales," Wildes says. In today's market, low per-ton cost is the goal when making up container loads.

"Combine this automated multi-material baler with an automated operation and now the plant can be fine tuned for maximum efficiency," Wildes adds.

The author is a Recycling Today contributing editor based in the Cleveland area. He can be reached at
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Author:Harler, Curt
Publication:Recycling Today
Date:Feb 1, 2007
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