Choosing the Right Compactor

If you’re a first time compactor buyer, shopping for a compactor can be a pretty tough task. There aren’t a lot of quality resources available to answer your questions, or to help you select the best machine for your particular business need. We’d like to help you get started by providing answers to some of the most commonly asked questions that we encounter. We hope that this information will help you select the ideal compactor for your application. If you would like further assistance please contact us at 1-800-678-7320 and we would be happy to help.

Why do I need a compactor?

Businesses have a variety of reasons for using compactors, but the most common reason is to reduce costs. The primary cost driver for waste disposal is generally the transportation cost that‘s associated with getting the waste from your place of business, to the landfill, incinerator, or material recovery facility. Compactors reduce the cost of transportation by compacting or densifying the waste into a fixed volume container. This volume reduction effectively reduces the amount of transport that is required to get your waste to its final destination. Fewer trips with the truck result in lower costs for the business. Most compactors provide a 4 to 1 compaction ratio. That means for every 4 truckloads of loose waste taken to the landfill, the same quantity of compacted waste would only require 1 trip. So by using a compactor, you can save much of the time and energy associated with waste removal, and ultimately, money.

Even though cost reduction may be the primary reason compactors are used, there are other valid reasons that businesses may use compactors instead of dumpsters or “open top” containers. Compactors discourage dumpster diving and scavenging, and they prevent unauthorized dumping by the general public. They also promote cleanliness in the waste collection area and reduce problems with rodents, insects, and odors that are commonly associated with dumpsters. Compactors can also free up space by reducing the number of dumpsters or front load cans that are required on your property.

How do I determine the right size of compactor?

If you’ve decided that a compactor will save you money or solve some of the problems you have with your waste removal, the next step is to determine what size compactor you need. There are generally two issues to consider when sizing your compactor.

What is the total volume of waste (in cubic yards) that my business generates each week?
The answer to this question will determine the amount of containment that you need with your compactor. The higher your weekly waste volume, the more containment you need to maximize the time between pickups. Compactor container sizes range from 2 cubic yard front load cans all the way up to 45 cubic yard compactor containers.

What is the largest or bulkiest type of waste that will be thrown into the compactor? The answer to this question will determine the size of the hopper and compactor charge chamber required on your compactor. Bulky items can jam up the infeed of the compactor, so the charge chamber, access door, and hopper must be able to accommodate the largest items that you plan to dispose of. Our smallest compactor has ½ cubic yard of charge chamber capacity. It can accept bagged household trash at the bottom of a high rise apartment chute system. Our largest compactor has a charge chamber of 15 cubic yards, which is large enough to consume a garbage truck’s entire contents.

How do I determine which type of compactor I need?

Dry waste vs Wet waste - What is the nature of your waste stream? Is it dry department store waste, is it restaurant waste, is it factory waste, or is it municipal waste? If you have a high level of food or liquid waste, you will want your compactor to be a liquid tight self-contained system. If your waste is mostly dry, you can use a break-away system where the compactor and container are separate units. This allows for a larger container and therefore fewer hauls.

Roll Off Service vs Front Load / Rear Load Service – Typically higher volume waste generators will need to use larger compactors that will require service by a roll off truck. These compactors have a containment range from 10 cubic yard capacity to 45 cubic yard capacity. Compactors that utilize roll off service are designed to make full use of the truck’s payload, which results in an overall length of 20-25 ft and a payload of up to 15 tons. For roll-off service, the compactor wil be out of service while it is being hauled to and from the landfill. For roll off service, waste haulers usually charge a flat rate each time the compactor or container is picked up, plus an additional charge for the net tonnage of the contents.

For lower volume generators it can be more cost effective to maintain service with a front load garbage truck (solutions are available for rear load service as well), but utilize compaction to reduce the number of pickups required. Front load compactors are smaller, ranging from 2 cu yds to 8 cu yds, and they take up less space, usually about the same space as a dumpster. One of the benefits of front load compactors is that they are only out of service briefly while the garbage truck is on site dumping the container.

The last issue to consider when selecting a compactor is the hopper style that will be required. How will the waste be brought to the compactor? Will it be fed by hand from ground level or will it be brought in carts that need to be dumped into the compactor? Will it be chute fed thru-the-wall where the users stay inside the building and the compactor is located outside? There are almost and infinite number of possibilities, and this is an area where Cram-A-Lot excels at customizing your compactor to your specific application. We have solutions for every feed style, and our team would be happy to help you determine which one best suits your site needs and will be the most user friendly.

Since 1978, we've been helping the most important companies in the world find the best equipment solution for their operations. We are here to help and we are only a phone call away.

Jason Lind
Vice President of Sales