On the bale trail

Written by: Steed Webzell | Published:

With efficiency an ever-increasing priority, and helpful innovations in baler equipment frequent, Steed Webzell talks to a selection of leading players in the balers market, seeking out the latest technology trends and asking how users can achieve significant savings

Efficient waste management is a hot topic at present because of increasing pressure from the government to meet stringent EU recycling targets (50% by 2020), not to mention landfill taxes and guidelines laid down in important accreditations such as ISO14001. Baling machines, therefore, are a godsend because they allow businesses to efficiently sort, store, compact and bundle the various waste streams generated: everything from paper and cardboard through to aluminium, plastics, wood and plenty more besides.

All businesses with a vested interest in toeing the environmental line should consider investment in the latest baler technology.

Take Veolia, for example, which processes over one million tonnes of recyclates every year. At the company’s Armoury Road MRF (multi-reuse facility) in Birmingham, Whitham Mills has recently supplied a 25-metre conveyor and baling system. The installation is the fourth that the company has delivered to Veolia in recent years, and the tenth in total, with other machine locations including facilities at Canada Dock (Liverpool), Basildon (Essex) and Cambridge.

The new system in Birmingham, which can process 20 tonnes of material per hour, is being used to separate and bale mixed recyclable municipal waste collected at the kerbside.

In an end-to-end approach, Whitham Mills designed, installed and commissioned the system, and will provide rolling service cover along with consumables supply and fitting.

According to Ben Smart, the managing director at Whitham Mills, Veolia exemplifies a sector that is always interested in finding out ‘what’s next’ and ‘what makes this different?’ As a result, the aim for technology suppliers is to keep an eye on industry trends and anticipate what the next major demand is likely to be. At Whitham Mills, one of the latest machines to make the transition from the development lab to the showroom is the 180-tonne GB1175TR (twin ram) baler. Allowing refuse-derived fuel (RDF) baling and wrapping direct from the chamber, the company says this machine can produce dense RDF bales with reduced consumables costs. The GB1175TR can process materials up to 16 tonnes per hour into bale sizes of 1100x1350x750mm.

“Customers looking for the best ROI need to look at filling containers to their maximum bale weight while minimising their fixed costs per bale,” says Smart. “This can be done by having high throughput. However, customers should also look to reduce variable costs by considering the maintenance, consumables and electricity costs per bale. Automation is another option as UK labour is not cheap. Automated feeding, baling and wrapping for RDF bales can knock £50,000 to £100,000 off annual running costs.”

Whitham Mills offers systems with intelligence-led plc technology that can guide material through separation systems, along conveyors and through perforators and shredders before automatic balers tie off and pump out clean, uncontaminated, dense bales.

“We’ve recently seen a big shift towards high throughput and fully automatic balers that can handle multiple waste streams,” says Smart. “Waste processors don’t want to lose a job because they cannot economically handle different materials.”

Getting value for money

“Customers are always looking at throughput rates,” concurs Adam Moore, sales manager at Ken Mills Engineering, “and if they want fully automatic balers they should seek out functions such as touchscreen controls, which can be beneficial when they bale multiple products. A touchscreen allows users to change bale pressures, the numbers of wires, and timers, for example. It also gives warning signals and indicates when the baler requires servicing.”

The most recently introduced baler at Ken Mills Engineering is the Aries XL, which offers a greater range of speeds for larger throughputs.

“Bale size and weight are also important,” adds Moore, “but making sure you maximise transport load weight to its maximum is key. Automation is another vital factor for a lot of customers. We have made/supplied over 56 fully automatic twin ram balers since the early 1990s – more than 40 in the past 10 years – so that gives an idea of recent trends. Looking forward, balers will almost certainly get even faster to suit the growing demand of product recycling.”

In short, it appears that the main considerations for today’s baler purchasers include tonnage capacity (throughput) and bale weights (to effectively load trailers and containers), along with maintenance and operating costs (the costs associated with running the baler in production).

Of course, one of the big factors influencing operating costs is energy efficiency.

“Recent trends in energy efficiency have dictated balers that run at a higher operating pressure,” explains Philip Walls, engineering manager at Harris Equipment. “Harris/IPS 5000 psi (350 bar) balers use smaller motors to get the same output as lower-pressure models, which saves on energy costs. Further ways to make savings include making sure the bale size is correct in terms of shipping costs, while the cycle time of the baler for each material processed has to be considered for maximum efficiency. Automation is also a must.

“One general trend that we are seeing is the requirement by owners and operators for detailed reports coming from the machines,” he continues. “These ‘smart reports’ generate trends that allow managers to fine tune their operations. Some other trends, specific to certain markets, are automatic balers fully integrated into MRFs.”

According to Matt Hawkes, sales manager at Presona UK, along with capability and capacity, customers also want reassurance that the material they are seeking to process can be accommodated efficiently and effectively.

Key factor

“Reliability is also key,” he says. “Customers push balers hard and they need to know that their new machine can be put through its paces without breakdowns and stoppages.”

With this in mind, Presona’s recently unveiled LP 60 EH has a larger motor than the existing LP 50 EH and so can deliver denser bale quality at a higher throughput rate of eight tonnes an hour.

The primary difference with Presona’s LP series balers is the company’s ‘pre-press’ technology. When compared with a traditional shear baler, this is said to deliver a significant reduction in energy costs as all of the power goes into the compaction process. “Some customers who have upgraded to a pre-press baler have also been able to significantly reduce man hours and overtime,” concludes Hawkes.

“This has enabled them to manage material stockpiling and take on new accounts, which is the key to better profitability.”

Fact file: Competitive gain

All businesses look to reduce bottom-line costs when disposing of recyclable materials. According to Compact & Bale, which offers Strautmann balers in the UK, the fact that a standard baler can take as long as three hours to process a tonne of cardboard means there are significant opportunities for technology suppliers able to demonstrate competitive advantage.

“On standard balers, cardboard is double- or even triple-handled at the end of product lines, wasting valuable production time,” says Dan Windibank, waste and recycling sales manager at Compact & Bale.

To help combat this issue, the recently launched Strautmann Auto Load baler is supplied with collection carts. These are placed where the cardboard is generated, and once full, inserted into the rear of the baler. The operator then presses a button and walks away, leaving the machine to automatically raise the material through a set of rotors and produce mill-sized vertical bales.

“The machine features a heavy-duty press-shield guiding system and controls that ensure heavy and dense bale weights – bale quality is essential,” explains Windibank. “The Auto Load baler is already operating at UK food companies, distribution centres and factories.”

Among recent takers of Strautmann baler technology is Dartford-based Watts Farms, one of Kent’s fastest-growing food companies which has installed a Strautmann BalePress 53.

“The Strautmann BalePress 53 is a mill-size machine that makes 450-500kg bales that we store and sell for a far higher rebate in maximum 24-tonne payloads,” states Caroline Ayears-Johnson, group technical manager at Watts Farms. “This alone has enabled us to earn at least 20% more revenue from the sale of our cardboard.

“In addition, we have reduced our labour costs by at least 20% as loading the new baler is so much easier and faster. It has a huge feed aperture and fast cycle time, and the bales weigh four times as much as the old ones, so we spend less time tying, moving and stacking them, and purchase fewer ties.”

The 53-tonne Strautmann press was recommended to Watts Farms as the company’s cardboard mainly comprises tri-wall fruit box, which would be tough to compact using a lower-specification machine.

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