The year 1995 might have been more than two decades ago, and yet many things introduced that year are still around today. For instance, the internet welcomed eBay Inc., Yahoo and Match, while The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame opened in Cleveland.

Mid America Recycling, headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa, installed a Presona baler at the company’s Lincoln, Nebraska, material recovery facility (MRF) that year. This marked the first time that Sweden-based Presona had entered the U.S. market with its balers, says Mick Barry, president of Mid America Recycling.

Fast forward to early 2016: Presona had since left the U.S. market, while that same old Presona baler packed materials in Mid America’s 40,000-square-foot building. (After leaving the U.S. market for some time, Presona is again being sold and supported by parts and service in the U.S., represented by Stadler America, with U.S. headquarters in Colfax, North Carolina.)

However, Barry says his recycling company recognized the need to replace its 21-year-old baler. After several rebuilds—which included relining the floor and replacing wear plates and harnesses among other fixes—it was time for a change, he says. In addition, Presona leaving the domestic market made replacing parts difficult, Barry says.

“The baler itself was rebuilt three times, and that’s a lot for a baler,” Barry says of the 1995 Presona installation. “It was old and worn out and probably not worth rebuilding again.”

Barry continues, “Are you going to put a $100,000 repair job on a machine that’s almost 30 years old, or are you going to put $200,000 on a new machine? As a business, you’re going to do what makes sense.”

So began the bale-buying process, one Barry is all-too familiar with—Mid America has purchased about 25 balers over the years, he says. In the end, it was all about getting down to business.

Compare competitors

Barry says he and the plant management team at Mid America searched the marketplace high and low for options, almost entirely via the internet. This makes it easier to compare brands and models, he says. From hydraulics and performance statistics to throat characteristics—What is the largest size of cardboard that can fit without jamming?—studying the various features of different balers is time well-spent.

Barry says some questions to consider upfront include:

  • How does the supplier address parts and service delays?
  • What are the tons per hour and weight per bale?
  • What types of commodities can the baler handle?
  • What is the baler’s size and how does it fit into the current system?
  • What facility changes, if any, from electrical and door sizes to installing concrete, need to be addressed?

Productivity, bale weight and the baler’s footprint should be determined during initial searches. Understanding the hole that is left behind by the previous baler also is important. Additionally, for Mid America, the ability to handle multiple materials was key.

Barry says, “We look for balers that can handle every commodity, and some of the extrusion balers we’ve seen around don’t do as well with containers; they’re used to paper, not something springy like PET (polyethylene terephthalate) containers.”

Another factor to consider is shipping patterns. When it comes to cubing out a shipping container, tractor-trailer or railcar, Barry says it’s important to ensure the baler makes bales with suitable dimensions. With Mid America’s central location in the U.S., considering shipping patterns was important as the company is not close to any ports, making efficient transportation of high importance.

Barry says, “We look at the baler that gives us the good 60-inch-type bale as they’re better on trucks.”

He adds, “What fits the shipping patterns in the region you’re in?”

Once the list of potential balers has been modified based on these criteria, then it’s time to pick up the phone and talk to the manufacturers. Pricing and timeliness of delivery are the next factors to figure out.

Barry says, “I put the matrix together, and we said here’s the three [balers] we liked out of the 15 I matrixed out.

Next, he considered, “Who’s going to really give us what we want? Who could perform quickly and deliver it on-site at the given price?”

Seek advice

Beyond the internet, reaching out to others in the industry can prove helpful. Ask fellow recyclers why they are dedicated to one brand over another, Barry advises.

For Barry, his go-to guy is Steve Sutta, president of Sutta Co., Oakland, California. Sutta has several balers from Imabe of America, based in Miami. Barry and Sutta spent some time on the telephone discussing Imabe balers, with Barry saying he trusts Sutta’s perspective.

“Sutta said, ‘Get this model, not that model,’ as he knew what we wanted. We wanted the bigger one and not the smaller one, so he guided us on what he thought based on what he’s used,” Barry says.

He went with Sutta’s word, selecting an Imabe H120/2000 baler for the company’s Lincoln facility.

“We look for balers that can handle every commodity, and some of the extrusion balers we’ve seen around don’t do as well with containers; they’re used to paper, not something springy like PET containers.” – Mick Barry, Mid America Recycling

Prepare a plan

With the manufacturer selected and specific baler pinned down, working out the logistics is the next step. “You have to plan your change-outs big time,” Barry warns.

He says a baler installation requires a system shutdown and advises choosing a time when the company’s operations will be least effected. Dealing with cranes and other equipment could come into play, depending on the baler’s size.

The installation also requires a company’s entire operational team. Barry says he included this team as well as the logistics crew and even notified customers whose pickups might have been affected by the shutdown.

Because most MRFs don’t operate 24/7, he explains that a successful installation could go like this: Stop system operations Thursday night. Store all materials collected Friday in piles and remove the old baler. Spend Saturday and Sunday setting up the new baler, getting back to business by Monday morning.

“You have to know your flow and understand your flow patterns. Tell a customer, ‘We’re not going to pick you up for a few days. Do you need additional containers?” Barry suggests. “Leave stuff all over the place and run a little overtime the following week so you can get organized.”

Recyclers must determine transportation for the baler.

Imabe of America’s parent company, Imabe Ibérica, is based in Spain, which is where Mid America’s baler arrived from. Barry says Imabe paid the ocean freight to the U.S., with Mid America dealing with the logistics from the port to Lincoln. (The baler traveled by train to Chicago, and by truck the rest of the way to Nebraska.) As the baler manufacturer had recently entered the U.S. market, Barry says Imabe officials expected Mid America to have better contacts at the port. And it did; the company deals with a freight forwarder that handled the paperwork, Barry says.

In the end, determine what is most important to the company when purchasing a new baler. For Mid America, that was time. Barry says if Imabe had not been able to perform in a timely fashion, he might have chosen a different baler manufacturer. Fortunately, the supplier stuck to its word.

“We heard they were good for their word, and as a testimonial, they were better than their word,” Barry says.

The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via email at mworkman@gie.net.