Bulking Up

Experts say effective baling of recovered fibre begins with understanding your customer, proper technique and due diligence in selecting a baler.

November 15, 2012
Lisa McKenna

Baling recovered fibre for sale and export to various markets can be a complicated proposition. Different markets have different purchasing requirements, which recyclers have learned to adapt to and provide when it comes to baling recovered fibre and board.

One key factor in the industry is how materials are baled for efficient export. With the multitude of grades available, experienced recyclers have learned how to bale their materials most effectively and profitably. This can vary from market to market, where the specific grades of materials in demand also tend to vary.

All in the Mix
The mix of recovered fibre being baled for various markets tends to vary a bit by geographic region, recyclers say. Leon Graff, managing director of SmurfitKappa Recycling Benelux, with locations in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxemburg, notes, “Middle and better grades are mainly staying in Europe.” Graff notes that China is a major consumer, but mostly of the lower grades.

SmurfitKappa supplies the company’s paper mills in the Benelux region, which consume about 1 million tonnes per year of recovered fibre. The company runs several recovered paper plants with six balers and trades around 300,000 tonnes of recovered fibre to third parties.

Similarly, Richard Getkate, commercial director at CVB Ecologistics, based in Tilburg, Netherlands, says the most commonly baled grades for European paper mills include bulk and medium grades, such as OCC (old corrugated containers), No. 8 ONP (special news, deink quality), magazines, overissued magazines, overissued newspapers, sorted office paper (SOP), coated book stock and lightly printed bleachboard.

Meanwhile Gary Sexton, vice president of Cascades Recovery Inc., based in Toronto, says European mills are generally only interested in pulp substitutes. “My understanding is that European mills are consuming most all grades and the surplus is going mainly to China and then India.” He notes that the surplus tends to comprise mostly OCC and mixed paper.

Other recyclers also say the mix changes somewhat for the export markets. “If you look at export, it’s mostly the lower grades,” says Getkate. He says the medium to higher grades, such as coated book stock, SOP and lightly printed bleachboard, that are sought by European mills, are not as common in export markets, except perhaps to India. “The local market for us in Europe is stronger in most grades than the export market,” says Getkate, who adds though that OCC is most often exported. “We’re selling more OCC in export than locally.”

Getkate says India is a market which demands more specialty grades. “We sell for instance a grade which is called steel mill kraft oily, which is a high kraft grade which has a light content of oil on it, that is definitely not used in Europe,” he says.

Other grades are also more in demand in export markets, Getkate says, such as PE- (polyethylene-)coated grades, such as mill boxes and poly cup stock.

CVB currently has 10 facilities, including its headquarters location, with three in the Netherlands, five in Belgium and one in the U.K. Generally, all facilities handle the recovery of paper and plastics, Getkate says.

When it comes to baling different grades of materials, some recyclers say different balers may be better suited for specific grades. For instance Graff says when baling containerboard, recyclers will want balers that produce large and heavy bales (dimensions of 110 by 110 by 140 centimetres and weighing around 800 kilograms each), to make loading and unloading efficient. He says bales must be firmly pressed and easily stackable.

In contrast, Graff says tissue mills still prefer the other standard size of 75 by 110 by 140 centimetres, which enables them to follow recipes more effectively because of their smaller pulpers. The average weight of the material is higher than OCC bales, he says.

Meanwhile, Sexton’s opinion on baling both containerboard and tissue is that there are many high-density balers available, both single- and dual-ram, designed for shipping export. When it comes to baling for tissue mills, again high-density bales are preferred, he says, to maximize trailer or container weights.

“Most plant managers have individual preferences,” he says. “We probably have six or seven different baler manufacturers represented in our plants.”

Similarly, Getkate says the choice of a baler doesn’t depend upon the grade being baled. “Usually when you buy a baler, it’s supposed to bale everything you put in, and it’s supposed to bale more or less the same way,” he says. Also, he notes, most balers can produce whichever bale weight that is required, “so it all depends on the purchase price you’re willing to spend,” he says.

CVB has one baler at each of its sites, and most, but not all of them, are the same brand. “Each [grade]is baled in the same baler,” he says. “Obviously you have the technique of finishing off a bale of one [grade] before you start with the next one.” The company’s balers all make the same large size bales, 110 by 110 centimetres, which makes a bale of OCC weighing about 1.2 tonnes. With tissue, he notes, the bale weight goes down, and for magazines, it goes up.

Getkate notes that balers, a high ticket item for recyclers, are built to be all-purpose. “We do 80 different grades, so we can’t afford to have 80 different balers in our sites,” he says. “You just need one baler with a large capacity which is fully automatic, and you can separate the grades all day long.”

One difference Getkate has noted among balers is whether the machine produces bales with horizontal or vertical wiring. It produces the same kind of bale, but with the wiring being placed in a different way. “When you buy the machine, you know [whether] the bale type has either vertical or horizontal wiring,” he says.

While he says this makes no difference in terms of the quality of the bale itself, he personally prefers bales to be wired vertically. That’s because vertically wired bales have wire along the bottom side of the bales, while horizontally wired bales do not, potentially allowing paper on the bottom of the bale to fall out.

Meanwhile, Getkate notes that other recyclers may prefer horizontally wired bales, because it eliminates the possibility of sparks being produced by wire in contact with the floor when bales are picked up and moved around by forklifts. “Sometimes the bales are not picked up properly and are kind of dragged along the floor, and then you have the possibility of contact with the floor and sparks arising,” he says.

Even so, Getkate says he prefers bales wired vertically. “It’s just a case of safety instructions to your staff and explaining to them when they pick up a bale they should lift it up off the floor to avoid dangerous sparks,” he says.

Graff says he also prefers that bales are wired vertically, but for a different reason: “Our mills all have mechanical automatic wire-cutting devices which cut the wires of the bales on the conveyor belts toward the pulper from the top down,” he says. “If the wires are around the bales horizontally, you can only cut them manually.”

Export Ready
When it comes to maximizing the density of bales for export, Sexton says many recyclers believe two-ram balers can provide more flexibility in handling different product lines while providing the density required for export shipments.

Getkate says the baler type or brand itself really isn’t what will help recyclers to maximize the density of their bales, but the model of the baler, or its size, can be a factor. “The larger the baler that you buy, the more density you get out of your bales,” he says. “We choose to use the top range of the models, which are the strongest ones, which have the most force to bale the paper together, and they create the highest density.”

Meanwhile Graff says to maximize density, exporters will want to install a baler with a prepressing device, which most have. Like Getkate, Graff says installed pressing power is important; common presses have 100 to 140 metric tons of pressing power.

“Spreading the material equally on the conveyor belt towards the press is just as important as the quality of the baler,” Graff adds. “Bales produced like this can allow a 40-foot containerbox to be loaded easily above 25 tons of OCC and beyond that for other grades,” he says.

Getkate says selecting a baler is ultimately a personal choice, but maintenance can play a key role.

“Buying a baler is easy but maintaining the baler is more difficult, so you need a service point which is close by, which you rely on when the baler needs maintenance or breaks down,” he says.

“We look closely at the experience we’ve had in the past with balers in the sense of how much electricity they use, how often they need service and how often they break down or need spare parts, and whether a maintenance service is close by which can help us out if the machine needs it,” he says.

Usually CVB purchases the same brand of baler for its locations, but that is not always possible, Getkate notes, particularly in the case of a company acquisition where the purchased site already had an existing baler in place.

Acquisition has been a part of the CVB tradition, Getkate notes. The family-owned company has more than 40 years of experience in the waste paper trade and has grown by acquisition over the last decade.

“Once you take over a company, there is already a baler there, which sometimes is not of your choice,” he says. He says CVB has learned from experience in this process as to how to select the right balers for its locations.

Mostly, says Getkate, choosing a baler is a personal choice that involves important considerations. “You have to look at the price,” he says. Also, he adds, service is “very, very important.”

That can come into play, he notes, because breakdowns will occur with regular use. He says there have been cases in the past when replacement parts had to be ordered from the mill, a process that took as long as three weeks because of the geographic location of the manufacturer.

Graff agrees that serviceability is a important; but, for him it comes second to volume/quantity and the nature of the material being processed. “Suppliers are often geographically far away,” he says. “That is why we mostly choose robust bale presses which have shown their quality in the past and where we can perform some maintenance ourselves.”

Another factor, Graff points out, is the baler’s ultimate operating cost. “Energy consumption related to speed is an item to look into when choosing a baler,” he says.


The author is managing editor of Recycling Today Global Edition and can be contacted at lmckenna@gie.net.