People commonly ask, “So what do you do for a living?” I often explain that I work for a company called Midwest Bale Ties where we manufacture bale ties and baler wire. The response to that, 9 times out of 10 is, “Bale ties, huh? Like the stuff farmers use to bale hay?!” It turns out that hay or straw only makes up around 1%-2% of the material our products are used for. In fact, bale ties and baler wire are used to hold together a plethora of different materials. Each material – or straight – has its own characteristics and depending on those characteristics a different type of wire is best suited to keep the bale secure. Below we are going to briefly discuss different materials that are commonly baled and what types of wire are best suited to secure those bales.

  1. Paper – Out of all the materials recycled in the US, paper makes up a larger percentage than plastic, glass, and aluminum combined. Falling within the paper classification, you have several types: OCC (old corrugated cardboard), mixed paper, old newspapers, high-grade de-inked paper, and pulp substitutes. From a composition standpoint, these materials, once compressed in a baler, do not have a lot of expansion and are able to form dense, well-compacted bales that have good memory. Because of these features, you should be able to use a standard galvanized or black annealed bale tie or baling wire to secure and store.
  2. Plastic One of the fastest growing recycled materials, plastic is broken down into 5 subheadings: HDPE (milk jugs, oil bottles, toys), PET (soda bottles, water bottles, medicine containers), LDPE (shrink wrap, plastic wrap, garment bags), PP (bottle tops, carpet, refrigerator containers), and PS (disposable utensils, meat packaging, protective packaging). Plastics are known to have good memory, so determining the correct wire or bale tie needed can be more difficult than other straights. Typically, plastic bales will use a larger gauge or thickness of wire or bale tie in order to combat the expansion of the material once the bale is released. It’s also not unheard of for bales of plastic to be secured with a hi-tensile wire, which is a unique type of steel designed to have a much higher break strength. Knowing your straight, bale dimensions, and bale weight is key in understanding what type of wire is needed to secure your bale.
  3. Non-ferrous metals Non-ferrous metals include aluminum, copper, lead, and nickel; essentially any metals that do no contain iron. Some common materials that fall under this classification would be aluminum cans and copper plumbing pipes. For the most part, metals tend to compact well and hold their form so standard bales ties and wires should be acceptable when securing a bale of non-ferrous metals.
  4. Textiles Believe it or not, clothing is frequently baled. Sometimes the bales of clothes are shipped to a different county to be reused, and sometimes the clothing is baled and later broken down to reuse the fibers to make other products. Nonetheless, textiles and clothing are common straights that use bale ties and/or baler wire to secure. From a memory perspective, textiles do not pose much of an issue. Typically, you are able to use standard galvanized bale ties or baler wire when securing bales of textiles.
  5. Foam A material we don’t often think about being baled and recycled is foam. Used for mattresses, seats, and many other products, foam has unbelievable memory. Because of this, the wire needed to secure the bundle must be stronger than your typical galvanized bale tie. Typically, foam is baled and secured using a hi-tensile, bright basic double-loop bale tie. Double-loop bale ties must be fitted to the exact specifications of your bale size, so it’s very important to measure your bale before placing an order.
  6. Tires Tires are everywhere, and they are a terrible material to send to a landfill because they take an extended time to break down. Because of this, they are typically baled and recycled using large industrial shredders. Bales made of tires are typically very dense and have a great deal of memory. A lot like foam, bales of this material are often secured using double-loop bale ties, though there have been instances when we have found our customers can also use single-loop bale ties to secure these bales. Again, knowing your bale dimensions and weight is helpful when communicating to your supplier what product you might need.
  7. E-Waste E-waste breaks down several ways and typically goes through an involved process which extrudes some of the more valuable elements of the material. From a characteristic standpoint, bales of e-waste would fall under plastics more than anything else. Single-loop bale ties or standard baler wire can be used because the material has lower memory.
  8. Hay – This is the granddaddy of all bales. Hay has been baled since the beginning of the industrial revolution. The machines used to bale hay typically use a 14.5-gauge wire commonly referred to as “farmer wire” or “6500”, which is the amount of feet in a 100# coil of that material.

After digesting the information above, you should be a little more versed in the world of baling and which wire is associated with which type of baling. The types of materials being baled vary greatly, and it’s our hope that when you speak with someone about a bale tie and or baling wire you have a much broader understanding of this topic. As you can see, there is much more to a bale tie than just something used to bale hay. If you ever have any questions about your baling operation or would like to explore alternative wire options, please reach out to us with your bale dimensions, bale weight, and the material you are baling and we would be glad to discuss the most efficient, cost-effective way to fulfill your needs.