What Are Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers Made Of?

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Flexible intermediate bulk containers (or FIBCs) are non-rigid storage containers that are primarily used to hold large quantities of dry semi-solid materials, such as sand or powder.

Flexible intermediate bulk containers are completely collapsible. This means they are not only highly usable but easy to store and transport when not filled to the brim.

In this article, we ask the experts at ITP Packaging to explain what flexible intermediate bulk containers are made of, so you can decide which form of IBC is the best solution for your industrial needs.

What Material Are Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers Made Of?

All intermediate bulk containers are produced from some form of plastic material, and flexible intermediate bulk containers are no different. Because they’re designed to be flexible – which in this case means they’re designed to fold down and be collapsible – FIBCs are always manufactured using a non-rigid form of plastic.

Exact production materials can vary from one manufacturer to the next, but generally flexible intermediate bulk containers are made of woven plastics. The most common material is woven polypropylene (or woven PP).

You may have encountered woven PP before, because it’s also used to produce a wide range of different bags and storage containers, such as sandbags, cement bags and large potato sacks. Flexible intermediate bulk containers are essentially larger versions of these general-purpose woven sacks, produced to hold a much larger capacity of upwards of 1,000 kilos of semi-solid products.

What’s the Difference Between Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs) and Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs)?

Flexible intermediate bulk containers are similar in capacity to intermediate bulk containers (IBCs), but there are several key differences between these two methods of industrial storage. 

Both are produced from plastic polymers, but while FIBCs are made from non-rigid woven plastics, IBCs are produced from hardwearing, rigid plastics. IBCs can’t be collapsed, but while their primary purpose is to hold liquids, they are able to hold semi-solids too. FIBCs can’t hold liquids.

IBCs are best described as rigid, solid containers, and they’re usually protected within a galvanised steel frame. FIBCs are often described as ‘big bags’ or ‘bulk bags’, and they don’t offer nearly as much protection to products as IBCs do.

Here’s a quick summary of the defining features and uses of each type of container.

Flexible intermediate bulk containers

  • Flexible, collapsible, non-rigid storage containers.
  • Designed for semi-solids such as sand, powders, cement, etc.
  • Capacity of 1,000 kilos and upwards (depending on the size of FIBC).
  • Produced from woven plastics such as polypropylene.
  • Can be moved and stored easily by hand when not filled; can be moved and stacked using industrial equipment when full.
  • UN approved to hold hazardous materials.
  • Reusable and recyclable.
  • Takes up little storage space when not in use.
  • Not designed to hold liquids.

Intermediate bulk containers

  • Rigid, solid, non-collapsible storage containers.
  • Designed for liquids and semi-solids.
  • Capacity of 1,000-litres and weighs 1,000 kilos or more when full.
  • Produced from rigid plastics, usually HDPE (high-density polyethylene).
  • Difficult to move by hand, best moved and stacked with industrial equipment.
  • UN approved to hold hazardous materials.
  • Reusable and recyclable.
  • Takes up storage space when not in use.
  • Generally designed with an attachable steel cage for added protection, as well as options for a range of attachments including nozzles, bungs and IBC covers.

How Do You Know Which to Choose?

Deciding which type of intermediate bulk container to choose depends primarily on what purpose you need the container to serve.

Flexible intermediate bulk containers aren’t designed to hold liquids, but purposely designed to hold large quantities of semi-solids, such as sand or cement powder. These are also goods that can’t be damaged, are non-reactive and are generally safe to store and transport without too much hassle. Because they are made from soft, woven plastics, flexible intermediate bulk containers aren’t a good choice for any goods that could break while in storage or transport.

Intermediate bulk containers are much more versatile. They are able to hold both liquids and semi-solids, and, given their rigidity, they offer much more protection for the goods held within. The steel cage they fit inside affords an extra layer of protection, which can be incredibly important when transporting valuable or potentially dangerous industrial goods.

While both containers are UN rated, an IBC’s extra layer of protection ensures that it’s the best choice for carrying hazardous materials. HDPE is much stronger than woven plastic and less likely to corrode or react with materials.

In general, the intermediate bulk container is considered the best choice for storing industrial goods. It’s stronger, more accessible and longer lasting. However, if you are only transporting non-delicate materials then a flexible intermediate bulk container can be a cheaper option in the short term.

What IBC Options Does ITP Packaging Provide?

ITP Packaging focuses on providing businesses with long-lasting, rigid intermediate bulk containers. We stock 1,000-litre IBCs with steel cages in three distinct varieties, alongside a wide range of IBC attachments and protective covers.

The three types of IBC we stock are:

  • New IBCs: brand new IBCs fresh off the production line. UN and food-grade approved.
  • Rebottled IBCs: new IBCs which are sold in an old steel cage in order to lower costs. Not UN approved or food-grade.
  • Reconditioned IBCs: excellent value, recycled and reconditioned IBCs. Not UN approved or food-grade.

Contact ITP Packaging to Find Out More About Intermediate Bulk Containers

Intermediate bulk containers are an excellent method of storage for large quantities of industrial liquids. Whether flexible or rigid, an IBC tank is guaranteed to be long lasting, robust and hardwearing.

ITP Packaging stocks a comprehensive range of IBC tanks, alongside all the necessary attachments and accessories you need to keep your goods safe and secure.

If you’re looking to source high quality intermediate bulk containers for your business, then don’t hesitate to contact our friendly and professional staff for more information.

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