This article is written by Daryl Tavernor
Modern-day bulk bags – also called flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs) – are very different from the big bags of the past. Today, there are several types of bulk bags from which to choose. Advancements in technology over the years have allowed the packaging industry to produce a variety of bulk bags to meet the demands of different industries. There are FIBCs available for a range of specific uses, from storing aggregates to transporting potentially hazardous materials:
Food and pharmaceutical grade bulk bags
Cleanliness is paramount when dealing with food products, such as sugar, rice and flour, or pharmaceutical goods like fertilisers. All packaging must be thoroughly clean and clinically sterile to eliminate contamination risks to the items being transported. In these instances, food or pharmaceutical grade bags are required. Designed exclusively for storing and carrying non-volatile foodstuffs or chemicals, they are manufactured to stringent standards at facilities operating at clean-room levels.
Anti-static bulk bags
Regular FIBCs can sometimes develop a static charge when being filled or emptied. Usually, the bag grounds itself naturally when earthed and this is not an issue, but safety can be a critical problem for some industries, and this requires a specialist solution. Anti-static bulk bags are manufactured specifically to prevent electrostatic build-up during the handling process, which is crucial in flammable and potentially explosive environments. Regular FIBCs are often described as Type A or Type B, while anti-static ones are called type C and type D.
Baffle or Q Bags
Baffle bags, also known as Q bags, are ideal for maximising the amount of material that you can transport in a trip. Regular bulk packaging has a tendency to bulge at the sides from the pressure of the material packed within, giving the bags an inflated look. On the other hand, baffle bags are reinforced with lightweight material stitched into the sides to maintain their structural integrity. This allows the bag to retain its shape, which is useful for maximising the amount of bags that can be fit in a set space during transportation of goods. By carrying more bags in a single trip, transport costs can be reduced by 25% compared with using standard FIBCs.
Builders bulk bags
This type of packaging is commonly referred to as builders bags because it is used by builders and builders merchants to store a range of building materials, including rubble, sand, gravel and aggregate. Builders bags are also used to dispose of DIY and household waste. They come in various grades, from lightweight material meant for disposal after a single use, to more durable, high-grade fabric designed for multiple trips. Some bulk packaging specialists offer logo printing on these bags, allowing builders to personalise their bags and increase brand exposure.
ADR / UN certified bulk bags
Another type of big bag designed for the storage of hazardous substances is the ADR- or UN-certified bag. For a bulk bag to receive ADR or UN certification, it must have undergone rigorous testing in accordance with United Nations standards, often referred to as ‘the Orange book’. The certification confirms the bag’s qualities, including resistance against accidental dropping, tearing and toppling, as well as stability when stacked.
PVC bulk bags
PVC bulk bags have the longest life expectancy out of all the available types of bulk bags. They were designed to protect valuable hygroscopic products from harsh external environments during carriage. Made from PVC-coated polyester fabric, these bags come with welded seams to ensure that the product is completely watertight and safe enough to leave outdoors without affecting packaging performance. Although more expensive than regular FIBCs, PVC bags pay for themselves because they can be reused multiple times. Moreover, damaged PVC bags can be repaired without compromise to their safety performance.
Can bulk bags be recycled?
FIBCs can be both reused and recycled. For more details on the processes involved, take a look at this article about the eco-friendliness of bulk bags.