by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor
Growing up on a small farm in Michigan meant that there was always work to be done, especially in the summer months. Although the only crop we produced was hay, harvest time meant long days of hard work for every able bodied family member. Thankfully, the burdensome work was significantly reduced through the use of balers. These simple looking tractor accessories compress and bind the hay, making bales of a particular size and shape that are more easily transported. While the agricultural balers I grew to sincerely appreciate in my youth are still in high demand for farms of all sizes, balers of another kind are becoming increasingly popular in residential, commercial and industrial settings. These machines compact much more than crops of hay and wheat; metal, trash, plastics and cardboard are all reduced to solid blocks of material which in turn reduce waste bulk and cut carbon emissions.
In cities and towns across the country, the week is divided into two important segments of which everyone is keenly aware: before trash day and after trash day. Likewise everyone knows that sometime during that day, a large truck comes along and collects tons and tons of garbage. It is immediately evident to the average viewer that something is different about this truck, aside from the person usually hanging off of it. These trucks carry not only garbage, but powerful trash compactors. These bailing machines illustrate the prevalence of balers in everyday life. More than just an illustration, trash compactors play a vital role in our waste management system allowing the tons and tons of waste produced everyday to be compacted in ratios as high as 25 to 1. This not only means that shipping is easier and more efficient, but also that landfills fill up less quickly.
Photos courtesy of International Baler Corporation.
Balers reduce more than just the size of landfill deposits, they play an integral role in diminishing what is actually in those deposits. Metal balers and cardboard balers among others make up some of the most important equipment in the recycling industry today. They keep thousands of cardboard and metal scraps out of landfills and allow them to be repurposed in any number of objects ranging from shoe soles to furniture. Balers allow recyclable materials to be more easily transported and processed. As these machines can handle up to 30 tons of matter per hour, they offer a fast solution to waste buildup on plant and factory floors that encourages industrial manufacturers to invest in recycling, as does the return on investment of selling or repurposing recycled materials.
The balers themselves are in a way recyclable. The most worn components of the machine are often replaceable, with many used parts even being baled and recycled. As the entirety of the baler is built of durable materials, they often last for decades. Some manufacturers estimate that as much as 90% of balers produced in the past 30 years are still in use today. This means that even used balers, which may offer increased monetary rewards, continue to yield environmental benefits. While balers may always mean farm equipment and summer days of work in the field to some, they are also beginning to mean that those fields, and the rest of the environment for that matter, might hold out hope of lasting even further into the future than the balers that work them.