Whether you call it a big bag, jumbo bag, bulk bag, or tote bag, the flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) is a mainstay for dry, flowable products. These woven polypropylene bags offer a more affordable, safer, more compact, and more sustainable solution than rigid drums, making them the packaging of choice for many food, chemical, agricultural, and pharmaceutical products.
While the advantages of using FIBCs are clear, selecting the best FIBC isn’t so straightforward. And if you choose the wrong packaging, you could expose your operation to significant risks—jeopardizing the integrity of the product and the safety of the facility and its personnel.
Selecting the optimal FIBC is critical, and it starts with understanding the key considerations that should impact the decision. The more details you take into account about your product and the environment in which you’ll ship, store, and use it, the better equipped you’ll be to select the FIBC that best meets your needs.
Product Factors That Impact the FIBC Choice
- What is the bulk density of the product? Bulk density impacts the amount of product you can store in a particular-sized bag, which impacts the bag’s safe working load (SWL).
- What is the desired safe working load (SWL)? Careful selection of a FIBC can help you achieve a higher SWL, reducing handling while ensuring safety.
- Is the product considered a hazardous material? If so, and you plan to transport it internationally, you’ll need to package it in a United Nations (UN)-approved bag and label it accordingly.
- Is it vulnerable to moisture? If so, you’ll want a FIBC that helps protect your product against moisture exposure. That’s especially critical for products that will be shipped via ocean freight containers (as discussed below).
- Is it vulnerable to oxidation? The addition of a one-way degassing valve allows oxygen and product off-gassing to be released from the bag, without allowing it back in, to maintain the product’s integrity. A degassing valve also proves useful in high-altitude shipping environments, keeping the bag from bursting in transit.
- Are there any other special characteristics? For instance, if the product is hygroscopic, it may require a special barrier liner.
Operating & Storage Factors That Impact the FIBC Decision
- Are you looking to reuse your FIBCs? While reusing FIBCs is good for the environment, only some product types are safe to store in a multi-use bag. You’ll also need to ensure a fully closed-loop system from initial use to reconditioning to reuse.
- What is your pallet size? FIBCs can stretch anywhere from 7-14 inches once filled. When custom-designing the right solution, it’s essential to ensure the filled bags won’t hang off the pallet, which could pose safety, quality, and loading problems.
- How important is it to reduce warehouse space use? Most companies want to store more product in less space, so compact packaging is attractive. But for products stored in FIBCs, obtaining the most compact package must be balanced by ensuring safety.
- Which methods do you use for filling and discharging the product? The choice of FIBC will depend on whether you’re filling product from an open top or inlet spout, and whether you’re discharging it from a flat bottom or an outlet spout, for example.
- What is the filling and discharging atmosphere? It’s possible for dust clouds to form during product filling or discharging, raising the risk of ignition and explosion for combustible products. The greater the likelihood of dust, the greater the risk of flammability, necessitating a bag that reduces the associated risk.
- What is the likelihood of static buildup? Some chemicals can create an electrical charge, which can spark and cause a fire. In those cases, a conductive or anti-static bag is a must. FIBCs are classified from Type A through Type D, each varying in its ability to guard against static electricity buildup.
- Type A bags have no measures against static and should never be used in flammable environments.
- Type B bags, made of insulating fabric that prevents sparks and propagating brush discharges, are designed for environments with some degree of dust but no flammable vapors or gases.
- Type C bags are groundable, made of conductive fabric or interwoven with conductive threads to prevent sparks, brush discharges, and propagating brush discharges. They’re intended for environments where flammable vapors and gases are present or there is a higher degree of combustible dust.
- Type D bags are made of anti-static fabric that prevents sparks, brush discharges, and propagating brush discharges, so they don’t need to be grounded. They’re designed for environments with flammable vapors and gases or a high degree of combustible dust.
Transportation Factors That Affect Your Choice of FIBC
- What mode of transportation will you use for this product? Products transported via overseas shipping containers are likely to face more moisture exposure than those shipped by ground. They’ll require a FIBC designed to protect against moisture exposure.
- How far will the product travel between facilities? The greater the distance, the greater the exposure to moisture, oxidation, or other threats to product integrity.
- What’s the total time from when the bag is filled until it is emptied? Factoring in this information will help ensure selection of the right barrier layer.
Fres-co technical experts ask questions like these to understand every aspect of your product, operating environment, and transportation plans, so we can customize the optimal FIBC solution for your needs. Our tailored FIBC solutions include: U-panel, 4-panel, and circular FIBCs, with and without liners, coated and uncoated, with or without one-way degassing valves, printed and unprinted, from Type A through D, for both single and multiple use, available in a wide range of sizes.
Contact the flexible packaging experts at Fres-co to learn about our fully customized FIBC options for food, agricultural, chemical, and pharmaceutical products!