Choosing a Baler for Cardboard Recycling


Any type of company - manufacturers, distributors, printers, retailers, or some other type of business - that generates a minimum 10 tons (20,000 pounds) of old corrugated cardboard (OCC) each month should invest in a baler. Choosing the right baler for your particular volume of cardboard recycling allows you to streamline your recycling program and maximize the revenue you receive from your recyclable materials by:

  • forming solid blocks of individual commodity: old corrugated cardboard (OCC), plastics bottles, plastic film and shrink wrap, etc.
  • doubling commodity value when you process it yourself
  • allowing you to get rid of excess gaylords, saving floor space
  • maximizing weight of your recyclables so you don't pay to haul air

Balers are a tool in your recycling program, and like any tool it's important to choose the right one for the job. Don't waste money on a baler that does more than you need; for many businesses the simplest choice is the best one. On the other hand, larger volume generators will find that the right investment in equipment helps trim labor costs involved in recycling. Here's what you need to know to make the appropriate decision for your recycling volume and available space.  

Types of Balers

There are two general types of balers: vertical, or downstroke, and horizontal. The amount of material you bale each month largely determines the machine that's right for you. 

Downstroke (Vertical):

WQ_VertBaler-2-5.1-imageA downstroke baler, also called a vertical baler, has the smaller footprint of the two basic types. They stand about 5' wide, 3' deep, and 12' high and have a large cylinder at the top. Loading is done manually, and compacted bales are then hand-tied with wire before being loaded on a trailer. 

It's cost-effective to move away from compactors and invest in a downstroke if you generate at least

Low Profile Downstroke:

Low profile downstroke machines are an option for when you have a height restraint. These are designed to fit under a standard 8' ceiling. Instead of having one large top cylinder, low profile balers have two smaller cylinders that do the work.

Pricing on new downstroke baling machines starts at about 13K, or $300/month on a 3-year lease.


Horizontal baling machines are shorter and quite a bit wider than the downstroke. In a horizontal baler, material is compressed from a side ram. Bales from the smaller machines must still be tied by hand, but when you move to larger capacity balers there in an option to include auto-tie systems.

If you generate 25 tons or more OCC per month, you should move to a horizontal baler. At this level of cardboard volume, we find that the labor costs involved render a downstroke to be no longer cost-effective. 

Pricing on new horizontal baling machines starts at about 60K, or 1500/month on a 3-year lease.


 Choosing a baler:

In order to choose the right baler for your needs,

  • Start by knowing the volume of materials you recycle each month. Our complementary waste and recycling audit will give you that information
  • Consult with a recycling equipment consultant to determine exactly the capacity machine you need. Some of the variables are size, capacity, bale size and consistency, and variety of materials processed.
  • Finance equipment through your bank or other lender.

Don't ever let your waste or recycling company choose and finance your equipment. To learn why, download our free white paper: "7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue."

7 Proven Ways to Increase Recycling Revenue