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Your Guide To Choosing a Compactor

Most organizations already use wheelie bins or skips. As waste volumes increase, so do the wheelie bins and disposal costs. Is it time to use a compactor? Where do you start?

There are many variables to consider in deciding on a waste compactor. This short guide should help you organize your thinking so you arrive at the right decision.

There are four key reasons for having a waste compactor:


1. Save money on waste disposal: Waste compactors reduce waste volume by around 5 times, so collections are less frequent. Part of the charge for disposal is the transport cost so you'll reduce that element, typically by 50-80%.


2. Save operational space: By using a portable or static compactor with a bin lifter, you can empty each bin into the compactor, reducing the need for more bins and saving space.


3. Improve environmental impact: A reduction in the number of waste collections on your premises will not only reduce your costs but will also reduce your carbon footprint, by up to 80%. That's an important metric today and helpful if you have an environmental management system or have or are aiming for ISO14001 accreditation.


4. Improve staff productivity and working environment: Reducing wheelie bin management and collections will reduce the staff you need on this operation and free up staff to carry out other tasks and your site will be neater and tidier place to work.


What Type of Compactor?

First ask yourself three questions:

  • What types of waste and recyclables do you have?
  • What are the volumes and weights of each waste stream?
  • How much space is available for a compactor?

Four Main Types of Waste Compactor


Portable compactors: the compaction unit is attached to the container element permanently. The whole unit is taken away to be emptied. Some portable compactors can only deal with dry general waste or dry recyclables, others are specially designed for wet waste.


Static compactors: the compaction unit is separate from the container. When the container is full, it is detached and exchanged for a new, empty one. The full one is removed and emptied. Static compactors are not sealed so cannot deal with wet waste or waste with any amount of liquid.


Rotary compactors: a small footprint (1.5m x 1.5m) upright unit with a rotating drum which breaks up waste or recyclables on pushes is down into a heavy duty bag or 1100L wheelie bin with a compaction ratio of 9:1 (bag) or 6:1 (wheelie bin). 


Screw compactors: specialist compactors with an auger that breaks up waste and pushes into a separate container. Type of static compactor.


There are also polystyrene compactors, which are specialist machines as polystyrene (EPS) does not compact like cardboard or general waste.

How Much Waste Do You Have?


If you have more than 10 wheelie bins emptied a week or one skip or open container a fortnight, you will cross the threshold into probably needing a compactor. Take a look at the table below to start to work out what type of compactor is more suitable.

Waste/compactor  Portable compactor Static compactor Rotary compactor Screw compactor
General waste (dry) Yes Yes Yes Yes
General waste (wet) Yes No* Yes Yes
Cardboard Yes Yes Yes Yes
Plastics Yes Yes Yes Yes/No**
Wood (eg. pallets)** No No No Yes
Metal (cans/drums) No*** Yes Yes Yes
Food Yes† No No No
Polystyrene No No Yes†† No

* Static compactors are not sealed so cannot deal with wet waste.

** Some types of soft plastic wrap around the screw and can jam them. Hard plastics are OK.

**Wood waste is too dense. A screw compactor with a high powered motor can work.

***Metal can jam in portable compactors and become difficult to discharge.

† Requires a specialist sealed portable compactor.

†† Rotary compactor will reduce volumes by but requires a specialist polystyrene compactor for a more effective job with compaction of 40:1.


Space Available For A Compactor

Portable compactors need approximately 3m x 7m plus the space in front for the collection vehicle to pick it up. Static compactors need at least 3m x 10m plus the space for the collection vehicle plus space to put the new empty container (2.5m x 6m) down while picking up the full one. Rotary compactors are small vertical units approximately 1.5m x 1.5m.


How Much Can You Save?

That depends on how much of each waste stream you have and how much you are already being charged for waste disposal. The more waste you have and the more of your waste is taken away uncompacted, either in wheelie bins or skips or open containers, the more you can save. Of course, you would need to lease or purchase the compaction equipment to reduce the volumes, but that can be paid for over several years as an operational cost while you take the immediate benefit of the reduction in waste disposal costs. Compaction typically reduces the transport element of general waste by between 50% and 80%.


Separation of Waste For Recycling To Save Costs

Some of your waste could well be recyclable. Recyclables such as cardboard, plastic, polystyrene and metal have a high recyclable value and when compacted can attract rebates from recyclers which they will pay you. 

To give you an example, cardboard in 2022 has a value of nearly £200 a tonne when compacted. You will only get this price with a full 21 tonne load but at the very least, you should not have to pay to have cardboard disposed of. But you will, if you put cardboard in your general waste. By separating these materials and compacting the general waste not only will you reduce your waste disposal costs but you could bring in revenue to your organization. Separation of recyclables is a key part of reducing waste disposal costs. You may not be able to practically separate everything but you can make a start and you will see the financial benefit.


What Next?

Check out the links on this blog and the other pages on our website so you can familiarize yourself with the machinery. Bergmann Direct will gladly help you through the process of deciding whether you need any equipment at all. The best principle is to concentrate on the largest waste stream first and calculate the benefit of separation and compacting the general waste, then move on to the other waste streams.

For more information and a general no-obligation discussion about what you could achieve contact us using the Request A Quote button below which will take you to a contact form or email us at or call us on the number above.