Machines multiplied

Features - Baler Applications

Balcones CEO Kerry Getter explains why his company uses two different baler types in its recycling facilities.

May 8, 2014
Megan Workman

Kerry Getter and his wife, Becky, founded Austin, Texas-based Balcones Resources Inc. in 1994 as a commercial recycling and waste diversion business. Getter says his company’s commercial clients include 75 percent of Austin’s (and 80 percent of Dallas’) Class A office buildings as well as organizations such as the University of Texas at Austin, PepsiCo Inc. and J.C. Penney Co.

With roots in commercial recycling, Balcones moved into the residential market when the city of Austin granted the recycling company a 20-year contract to process 60 percent of the single-stream residential recyclables the city collects from the curbside.

Balcones constructed a $25 million material recovery facility (MRF) in a 100,000-square-foot facility on a 10-acre site in 2012. Bulk Handling Systems (BHS), Eugene, Ore., manufactured the sorting equipment installed at the MRF, which allows Balcones to process nearly 10,000 tons of material monthly, including old corrugated containers (OCC), PET (polyethylene terephthalate), HDPE (high-density polyethylene), mixed plastics, glass, all types of paper and ferrous and nonferrous metals, Getter explains. Space is available in the MRF to grow, too, he says.

“We have had a pretty significant presence in this market for a number of years, and being awarded the majority of the city’s contract was a significant milestone for us,” Getter says. “The 20-year nature of the contract allowed us to do some things on the capital expenditure side to really create a facility that we think will withstand the test of time.”

With facilities in Austin and Dallas and in Little Rock, Ark., Getter says Balcones “has a pretty broad menu of material that we recycle.” To handle such a wide-ranging material stream and to ensure high throughput, Getter uses two types of balers at the company’s Austin and Dallas facilities.

The balers installed at Balcones Resources Austin facility are a horizontal Macpresse baler from Sierra International Machinery, Bakersfield, Calif., and a two-ram baler, a REB-2, manufactured by the same company.

He says the company uses the same balers at its facility in Dallas, however the REB baler is a smaller model.

As a high-volume machine, Getter says the Macpresse unit produces more bales than the company’s two ram—ejecting a bale roughly every three minutes.

Balcones uses two different baler models at its MRFs for consistency as well as for an overall smoother operation, Getter explains. “We like redundancy within our company. It makes maintenance easier. It makes dealing with spare parts easier.

“We ran these machines in Dallas for a year or so in advance of installing them here in Austin, and we’re very pleased with how they performed,” he adds.

To lessen downtime, the company conducts scheduled maintenance during off-hours or on weekends, he says.

In the following Q&A, Getter shares why Balcones has invested in two different baler types—a two ram and a horizontal— for its MRFs and how these balers have increased Balcones’ throughput.

Recycling Today (RT): Why did the company decide to include two different baler types in this MRF? Has Balcones experimented with multiple balers in one location before?

Kerry Getter (KG): Yes, we have. The reason we use two different types of machines is that, generally speaking, a two-ram baler is a little bit better at baling certain products, and in our case we were looking for something that could bale plastics, both postconsumer and postindustrial, in an efficient manner, and those machines are very robust to do that job for us.

The Macpresse machine bales plastics as well and some metals, but it is used primarily for paper-related or fiber baling.

[It’s the] same [setup] in Dallas.

We had success with both machines at our Dallas facility, felt good about them there and wanted to replicate that in our Austin facility.

We’ve never built a facility without multiple balers just because if one engine goes out, you can still fly the plane. It’s been important to us, and it’s something that fit our needs well.

The first few things we looked at were functionality, productivity and the availability of parts and service. Then we finally looked at the cost. And when we evaluated all of those needs, we settled on the machines we have in place.

RT: What materials are directed to which machine and why?

KG: The Sierra machines mainly bale plastics and metals, UBCs (used beverage cans) and steel cans and all types of postconsumer and postindustrial plastics.

The Macpresse will bale the same materials, but because of the way our material flow is handled in both of our sites, they bale primarily paper or fiber.

We’ve baled all products on both machines at one time or another, but 90 percent of their time is divided in that fashion.

RT: Where are the balers located in relation to each other as well as in the MRF? How are they fed?

KG: In the Austin facility, the balers are located probably 50 feet from each other. All of our production ends up in one part of our building, and it’s important for productivity to have them in proximity to each other.

We have a layout in our facility that lends itself to feeding either baler from a variety of different locations. There are a series of conveyors and walking floors, and we also dump material on the floor homogenously and shove it in with a front-end loader and a variety of other options. We’ve tried to create as flexible of a situation as we can.

They’re near our outbound shipping area so that our forklift drivers, when they’re putting bales in inventory, are in proximity to rail cars or outbound trucks.

RT: How do you see Balcones’ day-to-day operations running if you had not installed two different machines?

KG: There are a lot of different options in the world for equipment. … we had some very specific needs, and we tried to match those needs up with the baling equipment that could satisfy those needs. There were other manufacturers that make machines that could do the same thing when we looked at productivity, service and cost, [but] we decided to go with the two machines that we have for our specific purposes.

No, we couldn’t [work without two different balers]. Our throughput is much greater obviously with two machines, but they also give us a measure of insurance that if one goes down, we’re not completely out of production, and that’s a huge factor. That’s why we’ve always tried to operate with two pieces of equipment because you will have downtime for one reason or another that’s not anticipated. If you do this long enough something is going to happen.

RT: In what ways have you seen that installing a two-ram baler as well as a horizontal baler has increased efficiency at the Austin facility?

KG: It allows us to bale our UBCs, steel cans and plastics without interrupting operations, which are lower [in] volume [compared with fiber], and it allows us to perform that function without interrupting baling on our fiber side of business. We can run both machines at same time and bale everything on our site.

We turn over our inventory four or five times a month, and it allows us to be a lot more efficient with getting all of the materials through the plant.


The author is associate editor of Recycling Today and can be contacted via email at