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Solid stature: when it comes to export markets, a good-looking metal bale can build a recycler's reputation.

The old saying about one man's trash being another's treasure couldn't be more true than when applied to nonferrous scrap metal. With today's unprecedented high prices, everyday items like copper wire scrap have many recyclers seeing dollar signs. And while domestic business is healthy, recyclers with their eyes on big profits are looking overseas to the lucrative export market.

As a growing number of recyclers enter the international marketplace, every little bit helps when it comes to distinguishing themselves from the competition. According to Jesse Nasianceno of Nexgen Baling Systems, a division of the Vernon, Ala.-based Marathon Equipment Co., having good-looking bales helps a recycler build the professional image and reputation he needs to grow his business.

SIZING IT UP. While the potential profits of the export market are an attractive lure, international shipping is not cheap. With rising fuel and transportation costs, recyclers want to protect their margins by exporting their material as cost-effectively as possible.

When it comes to baling light metals for export, the first issue that comes to mind for many is bale size. However, Nasianceno says much of the energy put into finding the "ideal bale size" is wasted. "Everybody claims to have the 'ideal size,'" he says.

Nasianceno says weight and cubing are more important factors for the ideal export bale. "With materials coming in all shapes, sizes and weights, bale size is not that easy to reach if we are looking at maximizing weight and cube," he says. Instead, recyclers would do better to concentrate on getting the densest, most even bales they can if they are looking to export material.

He says Nexgen's goal is to maximize a 40-foot sea container with 25 to 26 tons of product. To achieve this, the key element is bale density, and according to Nasianceno, there is practically no limit to how dense recyclers should make their bales. "There's no limit to density," he says. "Dense is good--it gives you more weight."

How bales stack up in an export container is also important. "Stackability is a big factor, a big ingredient to get the maximum payload," says Nasianceno. It is extremely important for material to stack evenly. Lopsided bales will stack poorly and have a negative impact on how many bales a recycler will be able to load in a given container.

Obviously, watching equipment demonstrations and seeing how machines work in the field is a good way for recyclers to judge whether a baler is capable of producing the export-quality bales they want. But Nasianceno says recyclers can look to a machine's specs to get an idea of its capabilities too.

The most telling factors include a baler's horsepower and compressing force, or PSI, he says. Even more important is the compressing ram's degree of penetration from the retaining wall. A higher compression force combined with enough penetration to smash the material in the first charge and in subsequent charges will result in the best bale densities. Recyclers also need to make sure their balers have enough horsepower to run through high enough volumes of material. "You want fast, efficient [machines] to get the most tonnage out," says Nasianceno.

Bale qualities like density and stackablitly all contribute to the appearance of a recycler's bales, which should not be overlooked. "Metals must be clean and stacked neatly upon arrival at the receiving country's port. The recycler should do this at his end--it will only grow his business by having a solid, good reputation within the market," Nasianceno says. "The recycler has the responsibility of getting the material to look right. If the buyer sees the recycler sending him inconsistent-looking loads, he's not going to develop that good reputation."

Once a recycler has a baler that produces good, export quality bales, he is also responsible for maintaining the machine and keeping it running at optimum levels.


Processing metal scrap is no easy task for equipment, and preventative maintenance is key to keeping balers running efficiently.

"It goes without saying that proper maintenance is important," says Nasianceno. "If you're running high volumes of abrasive materials, it has the potential to put a lot of wear and tear on the machine."

Nasianceno recommends having a checklist of preventative maintenance procedures that is reviewed after every shift. "You have to have a guy dedicated to looking at the machine after every shift, who looks at the hoses, the chamber, the shear blades, conveyer and loader so you can identify any potential problems. There are no shortcuts," he adds.

Any perceived savings in time or immediate cost by skipping such procedures are bound to catch up with recyclers eventually. "When [the baler] goes down, that's money that goes into a black hole and there's no getting it back," Nasianceno says. "There are some really good recyclers who don't have equipment problems, and it's because they have a preventative maintenance program in place. If you can put a system in place, there is no substitute for that." He adds, "Yes, it's going to add to your cost in the short term, but in the mid and long term, it adds to your bottom line."


While the baling of most paper, plastic and light metal takes place inside (in all but the sunniest climates), baling iron and steel has customarily been an outdoor activity.

Handling large volumes of metal that, for the most part, have already been exposed to the elements has allowed the baling of scrap iron and steel to evolve into a high-tonnage outdoor exercise using large machines.

Even smaller volume ferrous baling usually takes place outside, with portable balers working at auto salvage yards, demolition sites and other generation points.

Sales of the portable models have been brisk for the past several years, with the machines not only processing ferrous grades that have traditionally been handled by fixed stand-alone ferrous balers and shears, but also creating "shredder logs." These elongated bales are looser than bales sent directly to mills and can be fed to automobile shredders to produce shredded grades.

As Curt Spry of equipment maker Al-jon Inc., Ottumwa, Iowa, told Recycling Today for a feature last year, "Portable units are versatile; they can go and get loose scrap and process it into logs or bales to be transported to a high-volume shredder."

John Sacco of Sierra International Machinery LLC, Bakersfield, Calif., noted in the same story, "Portable loggers handle sheet, iron, appliances and automobiles."

Even in an era where portable balers are handling a growing amount of scrap, recyclers are still finding uses for the larger, stationary units.

Recently, Morris Scrap Metal, King's Mountain, N.C., installed a GS 7 Baler/Logger/Shear made by Harris Waste Management Group. The Harris GS 7 Baler/Logger/Shear deployed by Morris Scrap Metal features a resulting bale size engineered to meet mill specifications of EAF steel mill melt shops.

Trademark Metals Recycling LLC, Sutton, Fla., installed a 1,200-ton Lindemann EC (ETA-cut) shear in 2006 supplied by Metso Texas Shredder Inc., San Antonio.

--Brian Taylor

The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted at
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Author:Gubeno, Jackie
Publication:Recycling Today
Date:Feb 1, 2007
Previous Article:Searching for balance: with the cooling of the domestic housing and auto sectors, experts are looking offshore to find balance for aluminum markets.
Next Article:Gaining weight: thick, heavy bales can be a solution to thin paper recycling margins.

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