When Can You Not Reuse a Steel Drum?

210 litre UN Tight Head Steel Drum (Lacquered Interior)

Steel drums are one of the most long-lasting forms of industrial packaging that you’ll find in warehouses, factories and in the backs of lorries and trucks all over the world.

These heavy-duty containers are used to store everything from petrol to hazardous waste, and with a long lifespan, steel drums can be continually reused, recycled and reconditioned for years on end.

But there are times when even the hardiest reconditioned steel drums can’t be reused. They might be damaged beyond repair or contaminated to dangerous levels. In this article, we look at when you can and cannot reuse a steel drum.

How Long Will a Steel Drum Last?

Steel drums have an incredibly long lifespan. Fresh off the production line, the average UN certified steel drum has a lifespan of at least twenty years if it’s safely stored and transported, and carefully cleaned and decontaminated after each use.

Steel drums are designed to be reused time and time again, making them a cost-effective industrial storage unit. However, as with any industrial storage solution, steel drums can sustain damage, dents, corrosion or excessive contamination that can result in the need for maintenance or repair jobs.

Steel drums can often be repaired, while regular safety inspections and maintenance work will ensure that they make it to that deserved two-decade mark, or even further beyond this.

What Is a Reconditioned Steel Drum?

If a steel drum is damaged or broken beyond repair, it’s not necessarily the end of its life. In fact, even after that twenty-year lifespan has ended, becoming reconditioned steel drums is the next stage for these industrial storage units.

Reconditioned steel drums are almost indistinguishable from brand new ones. The reconditioning process sees old steel drums being broken down at a reconditioning factory, decontaminated, then pieced back together to be almost as good as new.

It’s a thorough, effective and proven recycling process that results in reconditioned steel drums that can perform many of the same jobs as a new steel drum. We should note however that reconditioned steel drums are not always food grade and shouldn’t be used for storing food or beverage items.

How Do You Recondition a Steel Drum?

Be aware that reconditioned steel drums are different from repurposed steel drums. Reconditioned steel drums are essentially recycled, whereas a drum that has only been repurposed is simply being made fit for another purpose or being reused.

The reconditioning process of a steel drum usually occurs when the drum is either at the end of its lifespan and has sustained too much wear and tear to continue being used as it is, or if the drum sustains heavy damage, such as dents or breakages that prevent it from being safely used for storage.

Reconditioning needs to be carried out by a specialist company, as the process involves heavy-duty furnaces and pneumatic presses. Old steel barrels are first cleaned and decontaminated, before being either broken down entirely and rebuilt, or pressed back into shape.

Reconditioned steel drums are put through rigorous UN testing to ensure they are leak-proof and safe for various industrial materials, such as solvents, chemicals and hazardous waste. If reconditioned steel drums don’t meet the UN rating requirements, they’ll be put through the process again to ensure quality and safety.

What Can You Store/Transport in a Steel Drum?

Steel drums can be used for a range of different tasks, primarily in the industrial sphere. They are designed to safely store and transport large quantities of liquids, but are also commonly used to hold semi-solids such as sand or powders.

Steel drums are UN certified, which means they can safely hold chemicals, fuels and hazardous materials. They can even hold hazardous waste. New steel drums are also food grade certified, which means they are able to safely hold foodstuffs for human consumption (as we mentioned earlier, reconditioned steel drums are not often food grade, however).

The most common industrial goods stored and transported in steel drums include:

  • Water and other liquids
  • Fuel, such as petrol and diesel
  • Lubricants and oils
  • Foodstuffs (such as cooking oil, spices, grains, powders, etc.)
  • Solvents and chemicals
  • Pharmaceuticals and medical compounds
  • Hazardous waste
  • Construction and building materials (e.g. sand)
  • Paint and decorating materials

As you can imagine, steel drums are used across a huge range of industries too, from automobile and aviation to food and beverage. They really are versatile industrial storage solutions!

When Can You Not Reuse a Steel Drum?

Steel drums can be reused continuously, but they have to be well serviced, cleaned and maintained in order to be safely reused each time. Steel drums can also be used in conjunction with drum liners in order to prolong their lifespan, protecting the barrel from corrosion and protecting the goods in storage from contamination.

Steel drums are always best reused with the same or similar types of industrial substances. For example, if you’ve been using steel drums to store petrol, then it’s not a good idea to start using them to store drinking water, even if they’ve been thoroughly decontaminated. The same goes for reconditioned steel drums and any food or beverage products; don’t risk storing food or drink unless it’s completely safe to do so.

Steel drums cannot be reused if they are obviously damaged or contaminated, either. If there are leaks or breakages, then have them fixed or have the barrel recycled if repairs are impossible.

Contact ITP Packaging Today to Find Out More About Reconditioned Steel Drums

Reconditioned steel drums are an excellent way to continue recycling and reusing steel drums long after their intended lifespan has ended. They’re cost effective, environmentally friendly and well suited for a wide range of industrial and transport tasks.

If you’re looking to source high quality reconditioned steel drums for your business, then don’t hesitate to contact our friendly and professional staff today for more information.

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