Recycle bale wire scrap at point of generation

by Scott Ashpole

For industrial processors, who depend on efficiency to stay profitable, gnarly bale wire scrap cut loose from binding raw inputs at the start of production can act like barbed wire on a battlefield, slowing progress and threatening the safety of those nearby. The solution is to get it off the production floor as quickly, safely, and efficiently as possible.

But the traditional manual means of handling high-tensile bale wire scrap is inadequate, since having staff handle it multiple times wastes valuable space and labor while increasing injury risk. It’s not only difficult to manually cut, wad, wind, or compress but also can spring back like a whip when bent. Its sharp ends can poke, scratch, or puncture, and are a particular hazard to eyes. Long lengths of it can also trip staff and entangle machinery.

A growing number of companies in bulk processing industries, ranging from recycling and textiles to paper and pulp, are finding a key to unlocking greater productivity and safety. They’re handling high-tensile bale wire scrap more safely and efficiently by recycling it at its point of generation via heavy-duty scrap choppers that clean up the production floor and rev up profitability.

Recovery Processes Innovations (RPI), a recycler of end of life electronics plastics based in Salt Lake City, Utah, streamlined its process and enhanced safety with a heavy-duty chopper that’s making short work of high-tensile bale wire, cut loose from incoming bales of plastic to be recycled.

“We achieved ROI in six months with our bale wire chopper,” said Ronald Kobler, president of RPI. “An operator can put the ends of ten wires into the feed where they’re cut loose, and within 15 seconds they’re chopped into compact pieces in a storage box underneath. We’re saving $1,000 a month in labor and have freed up 1,000 sq. ft. of production floor space that we use to store inventory. Eliminating the bale wire at its source has eliminated a safety risk, and will help to prevent injury and workers’ comp claims.”

Before using the bale wire chopper, RPI faced a less than satisfactory situation in handling high-tensile bale wire scrap, each approximately 10 feet long, with typically hundreds per shift. At first, the company tried letting the bale wire go through its recycling process, but it ensnared downstream equipment and had to be removed, requiring added labor and downtime.

When operators tried bending the wire for easier transport and storage, it was difficult and inefficient. “If you bend high-tensile bale wire it springs right back, and you’ve got to watch out for the sharp ends that can poke you in the eye,” explained Kobler.

Operators couldn’t cut bale wire with hand wire cutters, and bolt cutters were too slow; they had to step on the wire, cut it, and pick up the pieces with a shovel. They ended up cramming bale wire into boxes set on pallets. When enough boxes were filled, a forklift operator moved them to an outside dumpster for pick up.

“We understood that chopping scrap at its point of generation would boost safety and cut labor and handling costs,” said Kobler. “But we needed a heavy-duty chopper actually built for bale wire. With our volume, we couldn’t afford to feed a wire at a time into a light duty chopper that would jam or wear out.”

Kobler turned to a heavy-duty bale wire chopper, designed to reduce and ready the high-tensile scrap for recycling.

“Now the bale wire disappears as soon as it’s cut,” said Kobler. “We’ve done away with the extra labor and handling cost, the added box and pallet costs and the storage limitations. What’s most improved is safety and morale. Instead of being up to our eyeballs in unruly bale wire, we’ve got a safe, clean production floor and compact wire that’s easy to store and transport.”

“After a year of operation, the bale wire chopper is working fine, and we expect it to provide many years of trouble-free use,” added Kobler, who says its wear-resistant hardware and rotatable knives are part of its appeal.

Western Pulp, a leader in molded fiber solutions in industries such as packaging-shipping, nursery-greenhouse and floral, has also enhanced safety, efficiency, and recycling with a heavy-duty bale wire chopper. As its primary bulk input, bundles of used paper enter production bound with bale wire that must be removed and safely disposed of.

Previously, operators cut the bale wire then rolled or wadded it to fit into outside dumpsters.

“The primary driver for us was safety, to reduce the risk of pokes and cuts posed from loose, tangled bale wire,” said Terry Glasgow, Maintenance Supervisor at Western Pulp’s Corvallis, Oregon plant. “We didn’t want anyone poked in the eye. Because the chopper will help to eliminate poke, cut or trip incidents due to loose bale wire in the production area, it should simplify meeting OSHA requirements.”

Glasgow liked a number of the safety features in the heavy-duty bale wire chopper, such as a large opening for smooth feeding of the wire, along with an “anti-kickback” funnel infeed. He felt its “safety face” makes an easy target should a user need to stop the machine quickly. “Since the operator can hit the entire front of the machine with a shoulder, elbow, or body part, it’s a failsafe emergency stop that enhances safety.”

Glasgow acknowledged another economical, ecological plus, “Instead of paying to haul unmanageable bale wire to a landfill, a scrap dealer is now paying us for the chopped, more easily processed bale wire. Our improved process will help move us toward green certification, as we aim to recycle 100 percent of our input material, including bale wire.”