Compactors for recycling: pros and cons


The biggest advantage of using a compactor for your recyclables is that it saves space. One 42-yard compactor holds about 4 tons of OCC; that is equivalent to about 80 gaylord boxes. With a compactor, valuable floor space is freed up for other uses. They are easy, clean, and simple to use. The only drawback? Compactors are comparatively more expensive than dumpsters.

Costs involved to your business for a compactor:

  • monthly rental fees: a 3-year deal on a new 42-yard compactor can run about $400/month
  • haul charge is defined by how far the truck has to go; typically you are looking at a minimum of about $170 per load
  • disposal charge: this varies by area and runs between $45 - $75 per load

When you are using a compactor for recycling, the haul charge is offset by the revenue you earn from your recycable commodities. For example, a fully packed compactor of OCC weighs about 4 tons, and you should be able to negotioate earning between $10 and $15 per ton. You can also compace LDPE and other commodities.

You can manage your compactor hauling fees to save even more money.

Once you decide that a compactor is the way to go, you have to choose between 2 basic types:

Stationary compactors:

  • are bolted to the ground
  • the receiver box is latched on to the ground unit
  • full boxes are loaded onto a truck and replaced with a fresh, empty box

Stationary compactors require enclosures, a one-time investment that will vary according to your needs. The power unit - the hydraulics and ram - on a stationary compactor is 8' - 10' long, so your collection box will be that far away. Most companies build a walkway with steel sides and roof, lighted on the inside, as protection from the elements. If the compactor is aligned with the dock door, you will need a 4' x 4' chute to go down into the collection box. And safety gates are almost always necessary. 

Self-contained compactors:

  • are moveable
  • are all one piece
  • are often used by restaurants and hospitals because they won't leak

It's faster to swap the box out on a stationary compactor than it is to replace a full self-contained compactor with an empty one, a process than can take an hour or longer.

When you are choosing a compactor, go through a local equipment broker to determine the right equipment for needs and to a bank or other lender for financing. Don't let you hauler supply and finance your equipment for you. You'll be locked into an agreement whether or not the equipment or hauler are meeting your needs. 


For other tips on saving money on waste hauling and increasing recycling revenues, download our free white paper:

7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue