What Is a Can Compactor?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 16 September 2019
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The term "can compactor" can refer to various types of machines that are designed to crush or otherwise compress metal cans in preparation for storage, transport, or recycling processes. The size and function of a can compactor can vary significantly according to its intended purpose; larger machines are often used in recycling plants to compact several cans at once, while consumer models may be used to compact only one can at a time. Larger machines tend to be motorized, while home models tend to feature manual controls for crushing one or more cans.

The general purpose of a can compactor is to crush cans in order to cut down on the amount of space they take up. Larger can compactor models, sometimes known as balers, can crush several cans into a rectangular form known as a bale. This bale can then be stacked for storage or transport. The bales can be quite large, which means they can also be heavy; this means special equipment may be necessary to move the bale once it is formed. The baler will feature a large hopper in which cans can be loaded; once inside the chamber, a hydraulic arm will activate to crush the cans against a fixed surface.


Consumer models tend to be much simpler. Some can compactor models can be mounted to a wall, and a can or a few cans are loaded into a chamber. Once inside, another arm can be pulled downward, thereby actuating an arm that will crush the cans. The crushed cans will then be removed from the unit and thrown into the trash or recycling bin. This process allows a consumer to store more trash or recyclable goods in a container for transport or pickup.

Some consumer models also feature an electric motor that will ease the process of crushing the cans. A can or several cans will be inserted into a chamber, and when the machine is activated, an arm will crush the cans within. Many such models will feature a built-in trash bin so the cans do not have to be removed once they have been crushed. The user can instead wait until the trash bin is full, then unload the entire unit into a larger trash bin for pickup. Sometimes can compactor models are capable of compressing other materials, though they are generally designed to crush light metals only, such as aluminum.


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