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- 1 cubic yard (i.e., of space) is composed of 46,656 cubic inches.
- 1 cubic yard equals 27 cubic feet
- 1 Bale (measured in Cubic Yds) = L X W X H (in inches) divided by 46,656
- 1 Bale (measured in Cubic Ft) = L X W X H (in inches) divided by 46,656 X 27
- 1 Bale with dimensions of 36”L X 36”W X 36”H equals 1 Cubic Yard


Click here to check out the different balers and the bale weights they produce on various materials

The typical volume capacity, density and other characteristics of waste streams vary from industry to industry and location to location within an industry. It is fairly logical that waste streams or trash profiles with the highest air content achieve the highest benefits from compaction. Since trash profiles can vary considerably within the same industry (and even within the same exact market segment) the compaction force or benefits derived from Balers will also vary accordingly.

A) LOOSE, NON-BALED (OR NON-COMPACTED) WASTE. Loose or non-baled materials require a tremendous amount of space compared to baled waste. One of the main benefits of baling as much of a waste stream of recyclables as possible (such as bulky cardboard) is that the materials are removed from the waste stream. Even when there is no ‘recycling program’ in place this can lower waste hauling requirements considerably, since even a small quantity of baled recyclables would probably be picked up at no charge by a recycler.

B) VOLUME REDUCTION OR COMPACTION CAPABILITIES OF BALERS.  Balers are referred to by many styles and types including High Production Balers, Extra Density Balers, Low Profile Balers, Cardboard Balers, Plastic Balers, Metal Balers, Balers with Conveyors and Hoppers, and many others. The volume reduction benefits can vary widely, depending upon the mechanical configuration of pump sizes, motor sizes, cylinder sizes and so forth with each specific model. As could be assumed (generally speaking) the higher the force, bale weights and bale density, the higher the cost of the baler, however this may not always apply to Specialty Balers made for very specific items and/or uses. By determining the weight of one cubic yard of loose materials (or recyclables) and then knowing the baled weight (of one cubic yard) of that same material, it can provide some basic information related to the compaction ratio. For example, if the loose material weighs 25 pounds per cubic yard and the same material baled weighs 500 pounds then the compaction capabilities are roughly 20 to 1.

C) TYPICAL BALER SIZES and TYPES OF BALERS.   Typically, the model or name of a baler will be in reference to the size of bale that model produces. For example, 60” Balers produce a 60” Bale (in width). (Of course, the height and depth are the other two dimensions required in order to determine the actual bale size in cubic yards or cubic feet.) A 30” Baler would most likely produce a Bale Size that was close to .50 cubic Yards or 13.5 cubic feet. (For example, a Bale Size of 30” H X 30” W X 24” D = 21,600 cubic inches which is roughly one-half of a cubic yard.) Typical vertical Balers can range in bale size produced to 80" in width or even higher. Therefore, if some basic dimensions are utilized on a Baler this size (such as 40” H X 80” W X 40” D) the Bale size could be as much as 2.7 cubic yards or higher. By multiplying the three dimensions together, it is easy to calculate the actual Bale Size. As part of the bale size consideration it is important to try to size the baler so that employees or users do not have to do too much preparation of the materials before putting the material into the baler (such as bending cardboard). Therefore, before deciding on a Baler Size, it is important to evaluate the typical size of the items in the overall waste stream to be baled, in conjunction with the Loading Door Opening of the Baler and the space that is available. Extra space has to be allocated for not only removing the bales from the Baler but also any service requirements that might be necessary (usually about a foot or so from the wall on the back and sides of the Baler). Also the ceiling height is very important since the cylinder movement requires extra height beyond the normal ‘resting height’ of the unit. Some of the other typical baler sizes are 42" Balers, 48" Balers, 60" Balers, 72" Balers and 84" Balers. There are also Specialty Balers such as Bottle Can Balers and Foam Balers, Film Balers, Fiber Balers, as well as Core Tube Balers and Scrap Metal Balers. There are also Vertical Balers and Horizontal Balers. In short, whether it is corrugated cardboard recycling, paper recycling, plastics recycling, metals recycling, or other types of waste recycling, there is a baler or other recycling equipment for almost any application within reason.

D) BALE WEIGHTS Depending on the material being baled and of course the size and mechanical configuration of the Baler itself (i.e. motor, cylinder, pump, etc) the bale weights can vary greatly. Typical Bale weights for respective materials, such as cardboard (OCC), HPDE, PET, Steel Cans and so forth are usually readily available. Since cardboard is one of the most common items baled, oftentimes the weight of baled cardboard is used as a benchmark. In addition to bale size the bale weight is also an important consideration for determining the desired Baler. The seriousness and ‘depth’ of the Recycling Program usually helps determine the level of care that needs to be taken in deciding on bale weights and sizes etc. Oftentimes bale weights and sizes are just a matter of preference based on handling routines and general logistics.


Type of Material


Corrugated Cardboard

50 – 100 lbs/cy

700 - 1100 lbs/cy

PET (Soda bottles, food packaging etc)

30 – 40 lbs / cy

400 - 600 lbs/cy

HDPE (Milk Jugs, Detergent Containers etc)

22 – 25 lbs / cy

400 – 500 lbs / cy

Aluminum Cans

50 – 75 lbs / cy

250 – 500 lbs / cy

Steel Cans

150 – 175 lbs / cy

700 – 1,000 lbs / cy
Paper 250 – 500 lbs / cy 1,000 – 1,200 lbs / cy
Newspaper 350 – 500 lbs / cy 750 – 1,000 lbs / cy
Glass 500 – 700 lbs / cy 1,500 – 2,500 lbs / cy


125 - 175  lbs / cy

600 – 750 lbs / cy

Click here to check out the different balers and the bale weights they produce on various materials

F) BASIC BALER CONSIDERATIONS. By evaluating a few factors such as space available, material(s) to be baled, depth of the recycling program and the preferred bale weights and/or the bale sizes, the Baler type and size that is most suitable can be defined more easily. Knowing the volume of material that needs to be baled each week or month is a good starting point. For example, if a facility was generating 2,000 pounds of cardboard each week, they could get 2 bales per week by utilizing a Baler that produced bale weights of roughly 1,000 to 1,100 pounds, or they could get 5 or 6 bales per week if they utilized a Baler that produced bale weights of around 350 – 400 pounds. And of course, in each case the bale size (in cubic yards or cubic feet) could easily be determined by referring to the 3 ‘bale size’ dimensions (H X W X D). Therefore, in this example, using these two alternatives it would be a matter of deciding how many bales per week would be preferred as well as the bale size being produced. The more serious the recycling program and objectives, the more it will require detailed evaluations of bale sizes and weights and how they are to be transported in order to maximize payloads. Maximizing payloads involves determining the best way to maximize the bale tonnage per load, depending upon the mode of transportation such as flat bed trailer, closed van trailer or shipping container.

G) SORTING MATERIALS PRIOR TO BALING The depth of the recycling program will also determine other considerations such as the level of presorting requirements. To achieve maximum value from Balers as it relates to a recycling program, there should be adequate allocations made for proper sorting.


By using some basic information it can be a simple process for determining the benefits that will be derived from a Baler. Balers that are purchased with a specific purpose in mind and are utilized properly almost always yield great paybacks. Waste from business operations is a highly neglected area and because of that there are tremendous streamlining and efficiency benefits (aside from recycling benefits) that can be derived by baling and compacting waste. Reducing loose waste to cubes of trash (whether compacted or baled) offers management much insight that is otherwise unknown and impossible to quantify. Taking control of waste processing routines can also help to pinpoint problems in other areas such as purchasing practices that might be causing unnecessary waste.

A side benefit of balers (just as with compactors) is that they can provide the owner / operator with fairly accurate trash weight information. By knowing the average weight of each bale, then it is just a matter of tracking the number of baled cubes in order to derive the total estimated weight of material for a given period of time, whether weekly or monthly. With loose trash, especially when it is being discarded in dumpsters through different channels it is nearly impossible.


As mentioned above, there are many different styles of Balers that are available to fit almost every (reasonable) need. This includes Low Profile Balers (that are designed to operate with less ceiling height than normal), Conveyor System Balers (for very high volume applications), High Density Balers (for baling the really tough materials), Specialty Balers (such as those designed to bale specific items such as soft drink cans and bottles), and many others. Standard Balers are oftentimes the best choice due to overall versatility and most common application of the features provided.


To make a better determination of the waste hauling service requirements that are actually necessary even before baling is implemented, first calculate how many cubic yards of dumpster capacity is being charged for (or utilized) during a given period of time (such as each week). For example, if you have an 8 yard dumpster and it is being tipped 3 times per week, this would equal 24 cubic yards of capacity each week. Next, determine any material in your waste stream that is recyclable and represents a significant percentage of the waste stream (such as cardboard). Then using cardboard as an example, determine how much cardboard per week or month you are discarding. For example, if you are discarding roughly 3,000 pounds of cardboard every month, this would equal approximately 40 cubic yards of dumpster space. This would mean that roughly 10 cubic yards of Dumpster space per week (of the total 24 Yards per week) is being utilized by cardboard, assuming the dumpsters are full with each pick-up. Therefore, by just removing cardboard from the waste stream, it should reduce the weekly service requirements from 3 tips down to 2 tips. After removing the cardboard from the waste stream, it is just a matter of deciding how to handle that particular recyclable. The more volume and the better condition your recyclables are in the more options you will have available to you. For example, if you have good clean (unsoiled etc) dense bales of cardboard (which take up much less space for recyclers) then your recyclables become more of an asset, which (even in smaller quantities) would be picked up for free.

In addition to evaluating your waste stream for recyclables, it is also a good idea to make a practice of spot-checking the amount of empty dumpster space during dumpster pickups. The objective is to maximize payloads whenever feasible, versus having the waste haulers arrive when there is a lot of empty dumpster space. Many ‘pickup’ schedules do not fit the needs of the customer and this process will help determine the waste hauling requirements more reliably on a monthly or seasonal basis. The main objective is to try to end up with maximum payloads, meaning full dumpsters of compacted trash, versus frequent ‘tips’ of loose, non-compacted dumpsters with a lot of space.


By applying some basic principles, the benefits of Balers and the positive overall effects on business operations can be realized. Oftentimes, there are numerous other operational efficiencies that can result from the benefits derived from streamlining the waste processing routines. Aside from the many operational efficiencies when using Balers there are also benefits related to environmental issues and community image. And, as mentioned before, good insight into your waste stream can provide vital information that can be utilized to curb wasteful buying routines. Oftentimes, companies that have streamlined their waste processing end up with cleaner facilities, cleaner appearance around dumpster areas and less fire hazards from excessive trash piles in and around the facility.

Before balers are introduced into a business care should be taken in carefully evaluating the waste stream for key areas where recyclables are generated, as well as the volume and type of waste materials that might be the best candidates for baling equipment. This will also help during the selection of a baler since there are so many different types of balers that have varying capabilities (for baling different types and volumes of recyclables). Getting the right baler and waste equipment will help improve your overall efficiencies and paybacks.


By Matt Kennedy - Contributor / Author

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