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What Do Compactors Do and How Do They Work?

Billions of tonnes of waste are produced in the European Union every year, and a large portion of this waste comes from manufacturing, construction, and other businesses.

Many businesses have added compactors to their equipment in order to reduce their waste and cut down on costs.

But what is a compactor, and what does it do?

Compactor Overview

An industrial trash compactor is a large container that holds trash or recyclable materials. Like a regular trash can or dumpster, it will hold your business’s waste products.

But unlike a regular waste storage container, it will crush and pack your trash, adding extra room and saving you money.

Many businesses use compactors, from hotels and restaurants to industrial manufacturers and tech companies.

They often install their compactors where a dumpster would normally go, keeping all other operations the same for everyday employees.

Compactors work well with a wide variety of materials, including:

  • Paper
  • Scrap Metal
  • Plastics
  • Cardboard
  • General Trash
  • General Recycling
  • Food Waste

Items such as glass, chemicals, and wood cannot be used in many compactors, so it is important to check all requirements and instructions. In addition, compactors may need cleaning if they are used for a lot of food products.

How They Work

A trash compactor will have a loading chute or door, much the same as industrial-sized dumpsters or trash containers. As is usually done, people will open the door or chute and load whatever trash or recyclables they have.

Some compactors will require specific placements of certain materials and recyclables.

Glass bottles may need to be placed in a certain position, or large objects may need to sit in the centre of the compactor.

This will vary with the equipment and materials at your company, so be certain you know the proper procedures for your particular model and situation.

Once the waste is loaded, the compactor is then turned on to activate its hydraulic press, crushing the materials inside the container.

This may be done at every loading or at periodic intervals, depending on the equipment, the materials loaded, and the operator’s discretion.

Some compactors have sensors to tell when to crush, when more material can be added, and when a bin needs dumped.

Operating The Compactor

The controls are usually simple, with a key, switch, or button to turn on the compactor.

You will want to ensure you understand the safety controls on your particular compactor. Many, if not all, compactors will have an “emergency stop” or reverse button to stop compacting in an instant.

Some compactors have a horizontal hydraulic press, coming from the side to crush trash against the walls of the bin, much like some of our favourite spacefaring heroes were almost crushed.

Other compactors may operate with a hydraulic press coming down from on top, pressing the trash downwards.


Auto-tie channel baling press


You may want one style or another, depending on the loading capabilities and how it all fits with your company’s physical layout.

When the compactor is full, you will then need to take the trash to the dump or recycling centre as you normally would.

You will need to read your instruction manual to see if your compactor has sensors that will tell you when it is full. If not, you may need to perform manual checks or schedule regular collection times.

Benefits of Trash and Recycling Compactors

There are three primary benefits to using a compactor for your business or company.

Saving space on-site, saving money, and helping the environment are some of the main assets to buying a compactor. There are several other benefits as well, including advertising, marketing, and customer satisfaction.

Saving Space

Space is valuable, and you don’t want to waste space on site. Whether you have an enormous plant or a small shop, you need to make sure you have room for your equipment and your workers.

Trash and recycling can take up a lot of space, costing you more money and reducing your ability to get your jobs done!

A compactor will reduce the amount of space needed to hold your trash and recycling. As you are no doubt aware, waste products build up, and this slows down the buildup speed.

Saving Money

This brings us to saving money. A compactor helps you save money a couple of ways with your trash and recycling products.

First, you don’t need to spend employee time breaking down materials and recyclables.

For example, instead of having employees cut, break, and fold cardboard boxes, a time-consuming job, your trash compactor can crush all of them into manageable blocks.

Additionally, you will need fewer trash and recycling pick-ups. This will save you money on collection fees and infrastructure wear and tear if you use a trash service.

If you use your own employees and equipment, this will drastically cut down on employee hours, equipment use, and maintenance needed just to handle waste elimination.

These valuable hours and resources can then be transferred to other aspects of your operations.

Helping the Environment

Environmental focus may not be your company’s main goal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t do what you can to keep things cleaner. Reducing waste helps the environment while also appealing your company to customers.




According to research by The National Marketing Institute, customers are 58% more likely to buy from your company if they find that you are conscious of your environmental impacts.

By using a compactor to reduce both the space taken up by waste and the efforts required to haul it, you can appeal to ecologically conscious buyers, boosting your sales.

Additionally, you will reduce your contribution to landfills and recycling centres, helping them lower costs and preventing the filling of landfills.

The EU-28 saw a waste production of 489 kg per capita in 2018. While much of this waste is disposed of by incineration, recycling, or other methods, almost a quarter of it still goes to landfills.

Should You Buy a Compactor?

If your company is producing large amounts of trash, recycling, or even food waste, you may want to consider buying a trash compactor. In the long run, this will save you time, money, and employee resources.

Companies that are stuck in smaller spaces or city centres will benefit by using trash compactors. Quite a few cramped hotels, in particular, have found them to be quite useful for cutting costs while saving their valuable space.

If your company does not have much wiggle room or extra space, you will definitely want to look into getting one.

Even if you have space on site, considering a trash compactor for your business is not a bad idea.

It can save you money on trash collection services, infrastructure and vehicle maintenance, and even employee time and resources. Over time, these saved resources can help your company grow and thrive.

Either way, small or large, cramped or spacious, you will still find it advantageous to be conscious of your environmental impacts. Helping the environment and reducing waste will appeal to your company to customers.

A positive image is good advertising all on its own, and these changes can doubtless provide you with opportunities for beneficial marketing.

Other Options

In addition to compactors, many businesses find it beneficial to use similar equipment like balers. Depending on your company’s needs, you may find that a compactor isn’t the right choice, but that doesn’t mean a regular dumpster is still your best option!

There are other machines and equipment that can help you save money, space, and resources.

If you are working with a lot of scrap metal, such as at an MRF or a recycling centre, a baler may definitely be in your best interest.

It operates very similarly, with hydraulic presses crushing and pressing the materials, but with some important differences.

A baler creates useable, shippable bales of materials for use. It will often cut and tie the materials in order to shape them better, rather than crushing them to make space for more trash.

Some companies will use both balers and compactors, covering both trash and scrap metal needs. This may be a viable option for you, depending on your company!

What Now?

If you’re considering buying trash compactors or other types of waste management and processing equipment, it’s important to research and find something that will work for you. Not all equipment is useful for every company!

You can contact us to find out what we recommend for your business, and even what equipment we have available.

With decades in the equipment manufacturing business, we are an excellent first step towards your company’s greener, more economical future!