Trash compactor
August 27, 2016 5:51 AM   Subscribe

Does anyone have a trash compactor? My brother is thinking of getting one to use to compress used clothes that he sends down to Guatemala. None of us have ever had or used one and we are wondering if this is a realistic hope. He said even if it could compact them by 20% it would be useful as the shipping fee is based on volume. Does it just squeeze down things like milk cartons or does it really compact anything?
posted by InkaLomax to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
One of those vacuum sealer storage bags would be a much better bet. Many brands available on Amazon and at stores like Bed Bath and Beyond.
posted by nkknkk at 5:53 AM on August 27, 2016 [38 favorites]

If InkaLomax's brother is working on a larger scale than space bags, what you're looking for is a clothing baler.
posted by zamboni at 6:21 AM on August 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

Vacuum bags are amazing and you can send them with an SASE so you can have them mailed back to you. I already do this and it is a big time and cost saver.
posted by parmanparman at 6:41 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Another benefit to the vacuum bags is that unlike a trash compactor, the bags remove and seal out excess air, which means that unlike a simple compactor the bags will stay compressed.

One problem with simply compacting stuff (without sealing the air out) is that it risks un-compacting in transit, and bursting through the boxes.
posted by easily confused at 7:11 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

My family had a compactor when I was young. It's just a large metal ram that goes down and back up. You could craft a similar device out of a garbage can and a piece of plywood or something of the same size to push down.

Problem is, I think most dry clothing would squish down and then spring back up almost to where you started.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:22 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Agreed that vacuum sealer is the way to go. A trash compactor is the equivalent of a machine version of you using your foot to push down an overflowing trash can. Try that on a box of clothes and you'll see why it doesn't work very well.
posted by Karaage at 7:43 AM on August 27, 2016

I work at a costume studio and this is what we do when we have to reduce stuff for shipping: put items in a heavy plastic bag. Twist the opening around the nozzle of the shop vac and hold it tight with your hand. Vacuum out all the air. Twist bag closed really tight and tape down the twist really well so no air can get in.
As long as you have a vacuum, you don't need a special vacuum sealer or other equipment. Try it, you'll see.
posted by sexyrobot at 8:26 AM on August 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

I'm not sure about the scale of your brother's operation--is he sending the clothing in small boxes by commercial carrier?--but the fact that he's asking for a trash compactor makes it sound like he is at least looking at adopting the practices of the rag trade.

If so, there are a range of custom compactors which produce tightly packed bales of 50-500 kg. The term you're looking for is "baling machine" or "bailing press".

If he isn't up for purchasing specialized machinery, there may be a recycler nearby which provides rag baling services.
posted by pullayup at 8:42 AM on August 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I worked at a Goodwill, and we used a giant hydraulic press for exactly this purpose. I'd load the thing with literally 1000 pounds of used clothing (we weighed it), compress it into a brick the size of a Smart car, secure it with corrugated cardboard and baling wire and then use a forklift to load it onto a truck for transport to some kind of wholesaler that would ship everything to flea markets in the developing world. Any clothing we didn't sell off the rack would end up in one of these bricks.

A compactor is for sure the best way to compress and ship large quantities of clothing, but only if the quantities are very large indeed, and only if the compactor is designed to make it easy for you to tie everything with baling wire. (Without the wire, it would all just fall apart instantly, and you'd have a mass of messy, wrinkly, but still unshippable clothing.)

I would say, if used clothing is your business, you might want to invest in something like a cardboard baler, which is what we used at Goodwill.

If you're just sending off the occasional small donation, you're probably better off with vacuum bags.
posted by AAAA at 8:45 AM on August 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

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