Case Study

Massachusetts Town Saves by Baling Recyclables

The investment in small vertical baler for Townsend, MA—a town with a population of fewer than 10,000--seems to be paying off.

Recycling has been a town requirement since 1993, with a drop-off center located at the landfill. The current operation collects PET, HDPE (clear and mixed) steel cans, aluminum cans and foil, deposit containers, three colors of glass, old newsprint, OCC, mixed paper, textiles, and batteries.

At the operation's startup, all material roll-off containers were rented from the haulers, who either took the materials for themselves or delivered them to the nearest market. Since then, state grants have paid for the containers, and additional cost-avoidance measures are being sought.

A KMF model HL600 HD vertical baler was purchased in August 1998 at a cost of about U.S.$10,000--plus $1000 for installation. The baler has allowed for immediate savings in hauling and tipping fees, but has increased labor costs.

Old corrugated cardboard used to be a very inefficient commodity to ship loose in a roll-off container. The broken-down boxes would weigh about two tons and would cost $100 to ship out every two weeks. The town would be credited $5 per ton.

Now the baled OCC brings in $20 per ton, and shipping costs are nil, thanks to the vendor of the baler: Pine Tree Recycling of Keene, NH, agreed to put a full-length box trailer on site for storing the baled material, remove the bales, and pay Townsend to do so.

It takes three workers about 15 minutes to move a bale from the baler to the trailer. They use the landfill's front-end loader with special forklift arms attached to lift the bales into the trailer. Inside the trailer a hand pallet jack is used to move them into place.

When the trailer is full, Pine Tree removes the trailer, weighs each palletized bale, and pays market price for the load. (The value of a full trailer load of 30 bales ranged from $184 in August 1998 to $120 in December.)

According to Gatekeeper Paul Nixon, who manages the recycling center, the baling of plastics meant a quick savings of $125 per month by eliminating the hauling fee, plus there is some return on the baled product. Baling mixed paper saves hauling and tipping fees of about $590 per month, based on two hauls at $175 each and charges of $15 to $30 per ton for eight tons in a 30-yd container.

The center is also baling non-deposit aluminum cans. They used to be hauled by a private contractor on an irregular basis.

Nixon said he hopes to acquire a small, versatile material-handling machine such as a Bobcat after budgetary approval at the fall town meeting.

Municipal responsibilities for the landfill and recycling center in Massachusetts fall under each town's Board of Health. Townsend Board of Health Member Bill Burgoyne tracked numbers at the recycling center for the first three months of operation but has not yet determined the savings of using the baler.

"Labor is the only issue I'm concerned about," Burgoyne said, noting that one crew did in three hours what another did in one. With a more stable and experienced crew, he should be able to determine when the baler will pay for itself in avoided costs.

Rich Williams prepared the previous case study. The "Rigorous Recycler" is from Townsend, MA, and former editor of Waste Dynamics of the Northeast. He has served on various local and regional recycling boards and writes for the Nashua, NH, Telegraph. He can be reached at