Will a Compactor Cut Your Costs? Crunch the Numbers…


The Township of Algonquin Highlands installed compactors at its Dorset Drop-off Transfer Site to manage material from its two stream blue box program as a part of CIF project 840.  Reflecting on results from these and similar projects, and the new Compactor Guide, our team wanted to highlight two important areas for consideration in scoping out a compactor for your program.

Forecast the number of compacted bin movements

Compactor suppliers often provide estimated savings and return on investment from installing their equipment which are largely based on haul cost savings from reducing the pick-up frequency compared to un-compacted bins – the “Pick-up Reduction Ratio”. Some suggest that a Pick-up Reduction Ratio of 4:1 is what you can expect in switching to a compactor from an un-compacted 40 yd³ bin.

This isn’t always the case. Results from the Dorset site installation show a ratio of 3:1, even though the Township only used 20 yd³ bins in their previous system.  The reason – the Township had already been partially compacting their loads using a back-hoe.

Container tonnes

Container no. hauls

per haul


no. hauls

per haul

Avg. Tonnes
per haul

20 yd³ system








Compaction system








Pick-up Reduction Ratio




Key-takeaway – Use real data: You can estimate a Pick-up Reduction Ratio for your program to calculate potential savings with greater accuracy than the supplier-advertised ratio. Use your current bin weights to compare against the compacted bin standards presented in CIF’s Density Study project 737. Real data will almost always outweigh supplier estimates.

What to do if there is no access to 3-phase 220 V hydro

In this scenario, the compactor is going to need an on-site energy source. Generators which use propane, natural gas or other fuel sources are common. Hooking up to a 110 volt trickle system to feed a battery pack is another solution. Alternately, a fuel powered engine directly driving the compactor hydraulic pump is a viable option.

Many municipalities have used solar power to partially fulfill energy source requirements – but remember – these require a back-up energy source (generator) to keep batteries charged in poor conditions (cloudy, cold, etc.), insulation/heat for the battery system, and additional maintenance (snow removal, battery monitoring/testing/replacement).  The full costs of solar, including support equipment and maintenance must be compared to a direct drive diesel/hydraulic power unit before making the final choice for powering your compactor.

Algonquin Highlands’ power decision

With no access to the hydro grid at the Dorset site, Algonquin Highlands installed a solar system for their compaction units with backup from a 12 kW propane fueled generator.   During the winter months, staff noted the generator was in near constant use and the amount spent on fuel was more than 4 times budgeted.  During the ‘good condition’ days of summer, the solar system did as advertised in providing enough energy to power the compactors.

The bottom line

For best compactor cost savings, compare before you buy!  Both your own Pick-up Reduction Ratio and the full costs of your compactor power system alternatives.


Contact CIF Staff

CIF staff is always ready to help. We encourage you to contact any member of the team to discuss your issues and questions.