The Most Cost-Effective Way to Recycle OCC (old corrugated cardboard)

     

The first step in determining the most cost-effective way to handle the recycling of your old corrugated cardboard is to know the total monthly weight of OCC you're generating. The only reliable way to know that figure is to weigh and track your material yourself. If you don't already bale and weigh your own OCC, a simple self-audit will give you the information you need. 

How to calculate the weight of OCC you generate monthly:

  1. Count your gaylords:

    15 - 20 boxes loose OCC = 1 bale = about 1,000 pounds 
  2. Count your compactor hauls:

    If you load your OCC into compactors, examine your monthly hauling bill. How many full compactors do you have hauled away each month? Each 42-yard compactor = 4 tons OCC
  3. Count your semi trailers:

    1 semi full of baled OCC weighs 20 tons. How many semis do you fill each month? 

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Now that you know approximately how many tons of OCC you generate, determine the most cost-effecive method of recycling it:

  • Under 10 tons per month:

    You get the most value by utlizing a compactor; compactors maximize weight. A typical haul charge is $170, so make sure each compactor is completely full before hauling. You should be able to negotiate to earn back between $10 and $15 per ton. 
  • 10 tons per month:

    This is the threshold at which it is cost-effective to invest in a downstroke baler. The value of 10 tons baled material in today's market is about $1,000 and the monthly lease price on a new 13K downstroke baler is about $300. After labor and hauling costs, you are left with minimal profit. 
  • Over 10 tons to 25 tons per month:

    bale your OCC with a downstroke baler and load onto a semi truck for hauling. Take care to make sure you maximize the weight on your trailers to minimize hauling costs. 
  • 20 tons per month:

    This is the threshold at which it becomes cost-effective to invest in a horizontal baler. The value of 20 tons baled material in today's market is about $25,000 and the monthly lease price on a small horizontal baler is about $1,500. After labor costs and hauling (20 tons is one semi trailer load) you are profitable.
  • 25 tons or more per month:

    25 tons or more per month is the point where you must invest in a horizontal baler. Labor costs involved in operating the smaller downstroke baler at this level are too high to make sense. 

 

Don't forget about your baling your LDPE (plastic film and shrink wrap). Large orders and shipment are most commonly received as cardboard boxes stacked on pallets and wrapped in plastic film or shrink wrap. It's always cost-effective to recycle LDPE; click here to find out how. 

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Another option you have is creating multi-layer bales using both shrink wrap and cardboard. That way you can use a single baler to process multiple materials at the same time. The value of these bales is 25 - 30% less than single material bales, because they will be broken apart at the recycling center and sorted into single-materials destined for processing facilities. Your labor costs are much lower, though, with this type of mixed material bale. 


Weigh and grade your own recyclables - that's the first trick in establishing a more profitable recycling program. Download our free white paper "7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue" to find out why.

7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue