The IBC container in industry and agriculture

IBCs are widely used in all areas of industry. It is a type of packaging that offers many advantages in terms of transport and storage. Easy to handle because it is the width of a pallet, the IBC is solid, recyclable, safe and approved. These are all assets that have enabled it to be adopted by most professionals.

Definition of CBI

IBC means Intermediate Bulk Container. It is also found under the name IBC tote, IBC tank or pallet tanks. This container is large. It is larger than a drum and smaller than a ship container. Its capacity varies from 445 litres to more than 1250 litres. It can contain powder, solid or liquid products. Visit for more about IBC containers.

History of the Intermediate Bulk Container

Initially, the flexible plastic storyteller was born in the 1940s following advances in the industrial manufacture of polypropylene. The first models of IBCs were made from a derivative of rubber and PVC. They were large bags made of stretched plastic canvas used for packaging and transporting flour, grain and spices. It was only later that CBI as commonly used, i.e. rigid, appeared in Europe during the consumer boom of the 1960s. We can of course assume that before then, manufacturers used wooden containers similar to pallet boxes for the transport of goods by ship and locomotive. The invention of the forklift truck in 1917 and then the pallet truck also contributed to the development of pallets by facilitating their handling. It should be noted that it was only much later that the Fenwick-Linde (1985) was born. And the notable event of the 90s was the patent on Intermediates Bulk Containers (IBC) filed by Olivier JL D'Hollander for the company Dow Corning SA in 1992.

The most common IBCs

The IBC usually has a capacity of maximum 1000 litres. It has a cubic shape and is made of rigid plastic with a protective metal frame or wire mesh around it. The containers can also be of different compositions: metal, wood, cardboard, woven or flexible plastic... And of course, they can have different capacities. Finally, the plastic used is high density polyethylene. The protective wire mesh around the container is made of galvanised steel. For stainless steel, the two main differences lie in its quality. There are two types of qualities, called grades, for stainless steel: grade 304 and grade 316. Those in grade 316 have better corrosion resistance. The metal is then considered to be "marine grade stainless steel".

Special IBCs available

There is a complete range of containers, from the most common to the most sophisticated:
  • TP type cubic metal containers
  • Tank container TCL TCS for chemical liquids
  • Containers type BPO for bulk material
  • Containers type BPK for highly viscous materials when emptying or dosing
  • Container type LNZ
  • IBC Containers Z
  • ZBEI containers for heating products

Transport of dangerous goods and CBI approval

The IBC is a packaging subject to UN regulated approval. There are several types of approvals according to :
  • Substances and their classification according to their dangerousness (Group I, Group II, Group III)
  • Type of transport: train (RID), air (IATA), sea (IMDG) or road (ADR)
  • In conclusion, the containers can be UN / UN approved for the transport of dangerous goods.

The areas concerned

As all industries are confronted with problems of transport and storage of goods, all of them can use IBC / IBC containers. However, the greatest demand for IBCs is in the food and chemical industries. But this type of packaging is also widely used in the pharmaceutical industry, agriculture, cosmetics, perfumery, petrochemicals, inks and paints, etc.

Ecological impact and recycling of CBI

Firstly, a 1000 litre container saves 5 x 200 litre drums. In addition, its square shape allows a really optimized storage. Empty, it will weigh around 60 kilos (for the HDPE one) and can be handled by only 2 people or with a forklift. The plastic containers are fully recyclable after shredding, while the metal elements are recovered. Their ecological impact is therefore reduced. Finally, it is possible to give them a second life by renovating and reconditioning them.
CBI: recycling and good reuse!
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