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Balers and Compactors: Which Is Better for Your Business

Balers and Compactors: Which Is Better for Your Business

For being stuff we throw away, rubbish gets awfully expensive. Consider New York City, which spends around $1 million a day having its rubbish hauled to landfills in other states.

For businesses, reducing waste keeps money from going out the door with the rubbish while helping you meet sustainability goals. Balers and compactors become essential tools in the fight to take up less space in the commercial bins and landfills.

Is there a difference between the two? And if so, which should you be buying for your business? Let’s take a look at these useful machines and how they can help you with your waste management.

What Balers and Compactors Do

Functionally, balers and compactors do the same thing – take a big pile of material and make it smaller.

The distinction between the two is in what kind of material they can work with. Understanding the difference is a matter of vocabulary more than technical specifications.


Balers compress and bundle recyclable materials ranging from cardboard and paper to plastics and scrap metal. The machine takes the material and forms it into dense and consistently shaped bales that are easy to store and transport.

Most go off to a recycling company for resale and reuse.

There are three common types of balers as follows:

  • Vertical – small to medium volumes and can be run by a single person
  • Semi-auto horizontal – good if you generate higher volumes recycling regularly in Stockroom – good for retail operations as they don’t take up much space
  • Fully automatic horizontal – good for high throughputs of all types of material and continuous bale processing
Fully automatic horizonta baler
Fully automatic horizontal baler


Most balers can be configured to do the job in different ways, so there is some flexibility when you start narrowing down your choices.

One key way to decide on a baler for your operation is by size since the amount of space the machine takes up is limited by how much space you have.


A compactor does the same job as a baler, just with non-recyclable materials. This could be food waste, general rubbish, and non-recyclable packaging.

It allows you to compress large volumes of rubbish into a contained space before it gets picked up by the waste haulier and taken to the landfill.

The value of a compactor is directly related to how much waste your company produces and what type. It can cut the size of your waste stream by two-thirds, turning three cubic yards of rubbish into one cubic yard.

They can be quite large, so you do need to have the space to house them. But they’re simple to operate and require little training for your staff to learn to run.

How Balers and Compactors Work

As you might imagine, these two machines have similar operations since they have similar end results.

Your workers feed waste into the machine throughout the workday. When the level of waste gets to a certain level, the machine compresses it down to a smaller size.

The compressed waste is then bound or packed into a uniform block ready for disposal.

Since a baler is used with recyclable materials, it might also have a sorting line or conveyor belt as part of the process. Sorting lines can sort through waste to separate different materials, which then go into bunkers before being compressed into bales.

Compactors work with a large metal ram that compresses refuse down into the machine. The waste loaded in can cover all types, and some compactors can hold up to 1,000 gallons at a time.

Advantages of Each

Whether you choose a baler or compactor, each of these trash solutions has distinct advantages for your company and your waste management team.


With a baler, it’s much easier to reduce contamination between types of recyclable materials. Once you’ve baled up the cardboard, you don’t have to worry about aluminium cans or plastics getting mixed in with them later.

You also cut down on other kinds of contamination like pests, dust, or spills.

A baler saves you floor space as well since it produces neat, stackable bales. You’ll spend less time managing materials once they’re baled up and out of the way. This also helps with safety issues and means you can spend less space for recycling bins.

Baling solutions also make your material more attractive for recyclers, who might be willing to buy it from you.


Compacting your rubbish makes your industrial wheelie bins less attractive for scavengers of the animal, rodent, or human variety.

You no longer need to worry about liability issues from dumpster divers or rubbish littering your parking lot after a raccoon gets in it.

Because you compact the rubbish into the container, you can get rid of unsightly wheelie bins and skips and never worry about overflowing or unsightly garbage. Your entire space can be kept clean, code-compliant, and safe.

You’ll also reduce your need for garbage bags and save trips to the dump or landfill.


Some advantages are shared by both types of machine since they serve similar functions in cutting the size of your waste.

Condensing the footprint of your rubbish means more floor space available for your operation and stock. The consistent size and shape of the compressed waste make planning storage easier as well.

Both machines are relatively easy to use and maintain. As a rule, you’ll only need one person to run the machine, and training is fairly simple and straightforward.

Your company also benefits from being able to tout its green waste management efforts. With a baler, you can increase and improve on your recycling goals.

With a compactor, you can talk about how you are reducing the volume of garbage in the landfill and creating less ground and water pollution.

How Balers and Compactors Save You Money

These are large pieces of equipment that do have significant up-front costs. But having them as part of your waste management plan can save you money over time.


Having a baler onsite can turn your waste stream into a revenue stream. Once you’ve baled up your recyclable material, you can sell it on to a recycling mill or waste hauler.

They’re more likely to accept waste that’s been properly sorted and baled, as well as pay more for it. The value of your material depends on the type and volume you’re able to bring them.

You also save money by reducing your overall rubbish by using recycling solutions so you can pay less for traditional refuse hauling.


A compactor means a serious reduction in the volume of your rubbish. You can generally expect to have your waste amount cut by two-thirds, which means you could have to have the haulier come pick it up once a month instead of three times.

Because your rubbish goes directly into the compactor, you can also save by not having to buy garbage bags.

Which One Is Right For You?

Choosing between balers vs compactors starts with an assessment of your business’s waste management plan. Four questions to answer are:

  • How much waste do we produce daily?
  • What percentage is recyclable?
  • How much space do I have for equipment?
  • Do I have the staff to run it?

The first two questions help you decide between the two options since their main difference is about the type of waste they handle.

The higher the percentage of recyclables in your waste stream, the more likely it is you need a baler. This tends to be the direction for offices and non-food retail businesses.

If your stream involves more general waste, a compactor is the direction to go. Restaurants and medical centres would likely choose a compactor over a baler.

Some businesses might produce enough recyclable and general waste to merit having both on hand, such as schools or hotels.

These would likely be larger organizations that have offices generating paper rubbish and food facilities producing general waste.

The other two questions will help you narrow down your choices of models and types once you’ve decided if you need a baler or compactor.

Space is especially important since the smallest balers can be taller than four feet and wider than three and a half feet.

Think You Need a Baler?

If you’re looking for better waste management, balers and compactors provide benefits from saving you space to saving you money.

A company with more recyclables in its waste stream should be leaning toward a baler to help with separating and compacting those materials.


Contact us


To learn more about improving your recycling efforts with a baler, contact us to talk about the right baler and conveyor system setup for your company. We offer 24/7 support and service to our customers in more than 350 locations around the world.