How Much Do Waste Compactors Really Reduce Waste?


I have a number of friends who work in factories and in the food and beverage industry. Recently we were enjoying some of Milwaukee’s finest beverages and somehow we ended up discussing the environment and how most of their varied employers all used trash compactors. The general consensus was that this was a good thing. But I found myself later wondering how much waste compactors actually reduce waste…I did a little research and found that it depends on what you mean by “reducing waste.” A hundred empty boxes weighing one pound each before compaction are still a hundred empty boxes weighing one pound each after compaction. However, the compacted boxes will take up much less room. Some industrial trash compactors can reduce volume by 80 percent or more, depending on the material. This can save money, labor, and the environment, also ways of reducing waste.

Compactors have a bin or receptacle into which waste is loaded. When the bin is full, the operator presses a button to start an electric motor which drives a hydraulic or pneumatic ram. Usually the ram presses down on the trash, but some models compact horizontally. When the ram senses enough resistance, it retracts. More trash can be loaded and compacted until the bin has reached capacity. The compacted waste can be moved to a dumpster for hauling or the entire container may be placed on a truck.

Compactors are always shielded to prevent injury to operators. They may be installed indoors or outdoors and may be loaded by hand or by a chute. Some operate automatically.

Compacting waste at its source saves employee trips to the dumpster. The waste stays in one place instead of falling out of a container and blowing around. Productivity and safety are enhanced when employees don’t have to clean up stray trash.

Space, whether indoors or out, is limited and expensive. What a plant manager wants trash taking up valuable floor space? Compacting waste materials makes room for more productive uses.

Compaction Saves $$$

Compacting saves businesses money. Most haulers charge by volume, not weight. Compacting waste means more material leaves on one trip at no extra charge. Compacting may allow a business to reduce the number of pickups, which also reduces expenses. If a business does its own hauling, employees are freed to do more important tasks.

The more material a hauler can take on one trip to the landfill, the transfer station, or the waste to energy plant, the fewer trips the hauler will have to make for that customer. This saves on time, fuel costs, wear and tear on the truck, and carbon emissions. Most disposal sites charge a tipping fee per load. Fewer loads means fewer tipping fees, a saving for the hauler.

Landfill space is also finite and expensive. Compacted waste takes up less of it, giving the landfill a longer operational life. That saves the substantial cost, often borne by taxpayers, and effort of siting and building new landfills.

Industrial trash compactors come in many models to suit different volumes, sources, and materials. Although compactors may be a significant investment, the payback in reduced expenses and higher productivity is often very quick.