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From Landfill to Round Bales on the Azores

After years of waste build-up of landfill sites on the islands of the Azores, the regional government finalized a solution allowing the community to remove the local landfills once and for all. The solution? Baling the waste into clean and sealed round bales using an Orkel Hi-X compactor, designed to handle sorted and chopped household waste!

Challenging the Small Island's Traditional Infrastructure

The Azores, a small group of islands situated in the middle of the North Atlantic Ocean, has experienced significant economic growth since the end of the 1990s, bringing with it the advantages and the disadvantages of increased productivity and employment.

The island communities are thriving, however, one issue becomes apparent as their infrastructure is under pressure; How will the communities manage the growing amount of waste? 

A Hi-X compactor in a concrete facility, with loose landfill waste in its feeding table and heaps of loose waste in the foreground.
Storing waste in bales instead of in open containers assures that no waste is lost during prolonged storage.

7.000 Tons of Waste

Up until 2017, in order to remove waste from townships and private properties, the Azores was dependent on creating landfills on each of the inhibited islands. According to the Portuguese Environment Agency, the average Azorian produces more waste than the average Portuguese mainlander does: A total of over 7.000 tons a year on the island of Faial alone!


Ever-expanding landfills and an unsustainable waste management strategy is harmful in many ways to a community. Harmful gases, toxic runoff, and loss of vital habitat are merely three examples.

As a result, the Azorian regional government sought to find a solution to remove the many landfill sites. 

A colorful heap of landfill waste on a concrete flooring in foggy surroundings.
Due to its vast agricultural sector, the Azores is dependent on rich soil and clean water, to which landfills poses a serious threat.

Facil Inova Lda.

Facil, an abbreviation of “Fornecedores Açoreanos de Comércio e Industria Lda”, is a 60-year-old company located on São Miguel island of the Azores. Today, Facil is a holding company while Facil Inova Lda is the group company that provide sales and services on the nine Azorian islands.

Currently, Facil Inova Lda has 3 business areas; industry, construction, and renewable energy, and approximately 40 employees across the islands. Little did they know they were soon contributing to removing Azorian landfills.

Technicians wearing yellow safety vests gathered in front of a black and yellow machine.
New operators are trained by Orkel technicians to ensure efficient baling operations.

The Solution

To improve their waste management strategy, the regional government initiated a collaboration with the local firm Facil Inova Lda.

The regional government built an incinerator on the island of Terceira intended for the waste segment. A waste management boat was transporting waste from other islands to the incinerator facilities on Terceira, however, they soon discovered the negative aspects of transporting loose household waste across sea.

“This transport had negative effects on a hygienic level, since the waste was transported in containers with hermetic limitations.” which Pedro Bizarro, Sales Director of Facil Inova, expressed.

After suggestions from Facil and proposals from Orkel, a cooperation was formed with high-density baling technology as the solution.

A Hi-X compactor inside a concrete facility with landfill waste piled in the background.
The Hi-X compactor is designed to compact household waste into sealed, clean round bales.

The Negative Impacts of landfill sites

  • Releases methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to air pollution and global warming.
  • A landfill threatens the local biodiversity, destroying the habitat of local fauna.
  • A landfill contributes to groundwater pollution, as highly toxic chemicals are formed when constituents dissolve and enter the groundwater.
  • Decreases soil fertility, altering the soil content due to toxic substances and decaying organic material, preventing potential future agriculture.
  • Impacts human health, due to air- and water pollution and potentially disease-carrying pests.
  • Causes negative visual impact, as a landfill ruin the natural landscape and appeal, often reducing nearby housing prices.
  • Claims vast areas, hindering communities a more beneficial use of space from potential stakeholders.
  • Remains a problem for future generations, as waste buried in landfills breaks down at a very slow rate.

The Benefits of Round Bales

Choosing an Orkel compactor offered several benefits for the Azorian waste market.

Bales allow seamless handling and transport, providing organized waste management. Furthermore, storing waste in bales assures that no waste is lost during prolonged storage, and essentially removes the leakage of hazardous gases and toxic runoff.

Moreover, baling waste with high density will reduce the total volume of the waste, lowering the required storage space on Terceira. Quoting Mr. Bizarro; “[High-density baling] increases the calorific value of the packaged material when it is incinerated, which is a great benefit for us!”

Black round bales lying on their round side with a heap of colored landfill material in the background.
High-density round bales provide a number of benefits, like improved handling and transport.

The Positive Results of Baling

As the waste management strategy strengthens, the threat from landfills are slowly perishing.

Unpleasant odors and toxic runoff are a thing of the past, as all generated waste are sealed in airtight bales before being destroyed.

The Azores has two Orkel Hi-X compactors, one on São Jorge and one on Faial island. Using these compactors, the Azorian waste is compacted into high-density bales before they are transported directly to the facilities on Terceira or placed in storage for later incineration.

On both islands the opportunity for prolonged storage reduces the number of trips made by the waste management boat. Long term, this will limit ship traffic amid the Azores’ vulnerable marine life, and reduce the cost related to frequent waste transport. Despite the recent improvements, the collaboration is showing no signs of stopping:

“As the local government is planning on extending the local waste management, we are foreseeing the need for more Orkel compactor technology” reveals Sales Director, Pedro Bizarro.

Five people standing in the shade of a Hi-X compactor with blue skies and white round bales in the background.
The team at Facil together with Orkel technician, Atle Erik Rekstad (to the left).

Orkel is looking forward to future collaborations, with an even greater environmental impact, together with Facil Inova and the Azores!