Many facilities generate more packaging waste than they can realistically manage effectively. Whether the core business is manufacturing, processing, transportation or construction, there will be boxes. Lots of them. Unfortunately, packaging waste such as empty cardboard boxes consume a considerable amount of space. While many plants do little more than tip used boxes into a skip, better options exist.
Gary Moore, UK sales director and director for global business development at Untha, a manufacturer of industrial shredding equipment, says: “In our experience, the primary reason for shredding packaging waste is volume reduction. However, some customers look beyond this goal. For those processing double- or tri-ply corrugated cardboard, there is an option to shred it down and produce infill packaging for reuse. This happens a lot at automotive plants, where brakes or other heavy components require boxes containing infill packaging.”
Another common driver of shredding technology investment is confidential destruction. Large manufacturers or process plants that have their lettering or signage on boxes often want them shredded as part of brand management strategies.
“Along with the underlying reason for shredding, there is a scale of economy,” says Moore. “For shredding light packaging waste such as cardboard boxes and tubes, used tape reels and plastic bottles, we do well with our small, twin-shaft S25 shredder. Users can simply move a wheelie bin under this stand-alone machine and collect the shredded waste. At less than £30,000, the machine is suitable for handling volumes of 300-500 kg/hr. At the other end of the scale is our LR and LRK series for thicker corrugated cardboard, as well as heavier packaging waste such as pallets. Some customers like to use the waste exiting these shredders to fuel their biomass boiler systems and heat their factories. Realistically, the minimum throughput requirement to justify investment in this type of solution is circa 1,000 kg/hr.”
Moore outlines that only shredders can handle heavier packaging waste like pallets, which he says are not suitable for processing in a standard vertical baler. And when looking at a horizontal baler to perform such work, it becomes more cost-effective to shred and recycle.
“Most of our customers are very switched on with wanting to shred, because they can cover a multitude of different objectives,” says Moore. “Machine selection is typically dependent on factors such as material capacity, speed, power and energy efficiency.”
Untha shredders use eco-drive systems that allow customers to use less power to do more work. Other common drivers for machine investment include cutter and screen longevity, potential versatility, and maintenance requirements.
Says Moore: “Although we have our own nationwide team of maintenance and service technicians, and offer a range of service/maintenance schemes, users of Untha shredders will benefit by undertaking some savvy housekeeping and best practice, such as ensuring they feed the machine correctly and that it’s not being overloaded.”
BALERS AND COMPACTORS
Other options for reducing waste volumes include balers and compactors, and among the specialist suppliers of these solutions is Riverside Waste Machinery.
Jonathan Oldfield, the company’s managing director, says: “Investing in a baler is often about the cost-effectiveness and efficiency with which you can get this packaging waste back into the circular economy.”
Both balers and compactors reduce the volume of waste but, typically, the former is preferable for the recycling and recovery of packaging materials, and the latter for reducing general mixed waste.
In general terms, a vertical baler is typically a hand-fed compact unit, while horizontal balers are higher-capacity and tend to be associated with automation, such as hoppers, conveyor belts or bin lifters. To provide an idea of scope, Riverside offers an 18-model range of vertical balers, extending from 40kg to 650kg bale capacity. A typical cycle time to produce a bale is around 20 minutes. Horizontal balers start around 500 kg capacity and offer much higher output.
“Investment decisions are often driven by cost; not the price tag of the baler, but the cost against what is being spent with the current system,” says Oldfield. “For instance, if a company tells us how much they are paying per skip lift, how many skips they have per week and how much waste they are generating, we can work out which machine will suit and how long before ROI is achieved.
“Another option is renting, which will hopefully start producing a return within the first month. Further cost-saving considerations include any surplus waste that the company was producing previously, and any revenue generated from selling the baled waste. There might also be a carbon footprint reduction if the waste travels a shorter distance to get back into the circular economy. Moreover, as the waste has been reduced in volume, fewer vehicle collections will be required.”
If the main objective is to reduce waste volume, then Oldfield suggests that a baler is difficult to beat.
“Not all materials reduce in volume when they are shredded; in fact, volume can sometimes even increase,” he says. “Foam, which is a common type of packaging waste, is a good example. In contrast, the primary function of a baler is crushing – very few materials get bigger under pressure.”
Although modern balers are easy to use and durable, following a basic maintenance schedule can play a key role in protecting the investment and maximising service life.
Oldfield concludes: “We would generally recommend one service per annum if the baler operates over a standard shift pattern. In terms of housekeeping, best practice would be daily, weekly or monthly visual inspection routines, complemented by a weekly or monthly lubrication procedure. Although machine reliability is clearly key, you get out what you put in with any piece of equipment.”
BOX: Put the squeeze on waste
According to Whitham Mills, a specialist in automatic baling solutions, the two main points to consider when purchasing a new baler are material and cost.
Material will determine the type and size of baler required. If baling cardboard, the plant will benefit most from a fully-automatic channel baler, which can produce consistent bales for off-takers to sell on the open market. The size of material is a further consideration, as it will impact the dimensions of the feed opening and the type of feed mechanism deployed, either via operators or an automatic feed conveyor. This factor is key to ensuring the machine gets a consistent and steady flow of materials, while avoiding blockages in the feed chamber and reducing downtime.
Also, it is essential to assess the current level of material recycling versus a realistic future forecast. A well-built and -maintained baler should last in excess of 20 years, so ensuring it can cope with projected material consumption well into the future is a must. Beyond the price tag, running costs such as power, operation, servicing and maintenance also should be part of the purchase decision. Finally, Whitham Mills says it is important not to over-spec a new baler. Plan ahead for increased throughput, but do not pay for excessive running costs when there is no need. Adopting a realistic and prudent approach will help pinpoint the best equipment for business needs.