FIBC bulk bag guide

Flexible intermediate bulk containers, also called bulk bags, are industrial-grade containers capable of storing and transporting a wide range of contents, safely, securely and without incident. Bulk bags can be expensive, especially when you’re using custom-crafted options, so many businesses like yours look for ways to manage and mitigate costs.

One chief way of reducing costs while maintaining a commitment to quality is to turn to reconditioned bulk bags in the mix of your new bulk FIBC bags. Considering new vs. used bulk bags may seem concerning, but these bags tend to be extremely well made, and that means there is a lot of life you can get out of each and every bag.

Your bags, whether they’re already reconditioned bulk bags or they will be in the future, are designed to be a cost-effective solution that works for multiple uses and a variety of applications. The good news is that each of your bulk bags can replace multiple pallets or other containers when you choose to adopt a bulk bag reconditioned program.

Why Used Bulk Bags?

bulk bag save money

Reconditioned bulk bags provide a way for any business using FIBC bulk bags to save money while still delivering goods and meeting demands for your production, while also protecting your process and supply chain. Bulk bags offer a wide range of benefits, many of which are important to point out in this guide to used FIBC bulk bags:

  • Collapsible: Used FIBC bulk bags can collapse when they’re empty. This frees up you or your customers when they need to ship the bags back to your warehouse or to your service provider who verifies the structural integrity of your bags. They also take up less space than other materials that can’t be broken down, such as drums and barrels.
  • Cheaper: Bulk bags, reconditioned and otherwise, are usually cheaper than most of your other container options. This is especially true when you consider the shipping costs of rigid items like pallets and drums.
  • Versatile: You can store and stack bags on each other based on what fits best for you and your clients. This means when your clients are done with a bag, they don’t have to take up as much space as a full bag would.
  • Stackable: If you’re using a full truckload (FTL) shipment — and often a less-than-FTL shipment — then you can typically stack in a lot more bags compared to containers, drums and other common containment alternatives. If you’re looking specifically at intermodal containers — those that can be moved from a rail to a truck — you’ll find that the same space of 12,000 standard boxes can be filled by 2,000 FIBCs. When collapsed, you’re able to save even more space.
  • Efficient: Whether you’re looking at new versus used bulk bags, your shipments will likely be taking up less space compared to traditional container options.

Many companies will have hundreds to thousands of bulk bags in use at any given moment, so reconditioned bulk bags just make sense. We’ve seen companies that operate with a wide range of used bulk bags, both reintroducing them into the same supply stream and using bulk bags for other materials or applications.

Requirements for Used FIBCs

Requirements for used FIBC bulk bags will depend on your specific application, both in terms of production and equipment use as well as the materials you’re using the bags to hold and transport. You can reach out to our experts directly for specific information about your industry and the requirements you should follow to maintain proper regulatory compliance.

Bulk Bag Work LoadYou’ll also want to make sure your bags can maintain a safe working load throughout their entire projected life. That means starting with a strong design specifically engineered for reuse and plenty of testing to make sure your bulk bags are reconditioned properly and are still safe. Always check your bags before attempting to reuse them or add them back into your overall circulation.

One Big Concern

Reuse of bulk bags is becoming more common, but there are still some worries within the industry.

The main concern you should be aware of, coming from Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association (FIBCA) members, is whether or not to use bags for multiple applications. Typically, the FIBCA itself won’t endorse the reuse of FIBCs in cross applications, and often not even for in-house reuse for the same material without very high safety standards being met.

In most applications, it will be unclear if an FIBC designed for one material is safe to use for another, unless it’s specifically designed to support both items. Wear, material interactions, equipment harm and other issues have occurred when companies try to stretch bags to unapproved applications.

If you’re purchasing used bulk bags reconditioned by a broker, always get information on where your bags are coming from before you put them into use in your operations. Brokers should collect used bags, test them for reuse safety and document the processes the bags were previously used in, each time.

You or your customers may sometimes sell used FIBCs to a broker to save money on disposal costs, cleaning and other concerns. The broker you use likely collects a wide range of bulk bags from multiple sources, cleans and inspects them and puts them back into circulation with new users. You’ll pay less for this refurbished FIBC, but the long-term savings are only achievable if you have visibility into your partner’s supply chain.

For example, consider an FIBC used for a material that is likely to clump or doesn’t otherwise flow smoothly. If your used bulk bag comes with a small-diameter outlet, then you will most likely have discharge problems during the use of your bulk bag.

Or, consider a bag that is designed for a very heavy weight. In your next use, you fill it up with the same volume but about one-third of the weight. This bag will likely deform during the fill as it hangs. Such “banana bags” are often unsafe to use because they’re unstable and won’t flow out consistently. This makes your employees significantly less efficient and — depending on the material and your application — may also put them in harm’s way.

If you aren’t reusing bags from your own operations, it’s always best to make sure they’re properly cleaned of any residue and that your application matches the bulk bag’s original application.

5 Key New vs. Used Bulk Bags Considerations

Here are five important factors to keep in mind when you’re looking at new versus used bulk bags:

1. Price Competitive 

The new versus used bulk bags debate always seems to start with price. It’s not an open-and-shut case about price savings, but for the vast majority of applications, you will save money by opting for used FIBC bulk bags. You’re saving money for design and development service, initial testing, manufacturing runs and other costs associated with new bulk bags.

Depending on your bag provider, you also can expect a standard, fixed-price for most of your bags when you buy them from a refurbishment firm. Each bag can be priced at a fixed rate per use, instead of per bag lifetime, so it’s often significantly cheaper than a brand new bag.

With a bulk recycling and reuse program, you are paying a small price and only ever need to cover the costs of the bags you actually need. If your demand shrinks, you simply order fewer used bags and avoid having to figure out how to store bags in your warehouse and keep them properly cared for to maintain their compliance.

If your demand increases, you can order more used bags and avoid waiting for the usual manufacturing and production delays that come from having new bags created specifically for your operations. With supply chain and polypropylene shortages becoming increasing concerns, this shorter lead time is essential.

If you’re working with bags internally, then you’re simply extending the life of your FIBCs and that means a lower cost-per-use, increasing the lifetime value of your investment for greater returns. Used and reconditioned bulk bags are a great way to be fiscally responsible while still protecting your operations.

2. Environmentally Friendly

Reusing FIBCs is a chief way that your operations can encourage sustainable practices and join the circular economy. This can save you money, help you meet regulatory compliance and improve your overall marketing to customers.

Even if you’re selling or providing goods to other businesses, having a sustainable partner is an easy way for you and your customers to boost sales by attracting newer, younger customers of their own. 

Green Bulk Bags

Many customers care deeply about a company’s sustainability, with around 78% of consumers more likely to buy products with labels identifying them as environmentally friendly and sustainable. Additionally, 64% of consumers will even pay more for sustainable products, especially if they come from companies they perceive to be eco-friendly and environmentally focused. These are the main targets if your customers reach out directly to consumers.

If you want to market more directly to customers who care about sustainability, millennials beat other generations, with 75% of them more willing to buy sustainable products. After them, Generation X follows up with 64% willingness and Generation Z with a 63% willingness. 

And, don’t forget that reuse often reduces production costs and delays, as we mentioned above.

3. Long-Term Considerations 

Reconditioned bulk bags allow you to essentially close the loop on your FIBC bulk bag supply and maintain your operations. After you fill your bag and deliver it to a customer, it doesn’t have to disappear into the ether — especially if you have custom-designed bags.

Using a reclamation process that allows you to reintroduce used FIBC bulk bags into your process will ensure you’re not running out or paying a considerably high price to continuously supply new bags with your specific design.

After you discharge each bag, your reclamation partner can test and re-deliver it, eliminating many of your production delays as well as the risk of not having a quality bag.

4. Shipping Lanes You Already Know 

One thing that’s important for used FIBC bulk bags is to know the quantity of bags in circulation, so you can estimate your shipping costs and times — without having to wait for production to catch up when it’s time for your batch order.

Bulk bags reconditioned for your use will need to move from your customers to your bag supplier or reclamation partner. The partner is the one who manages all of the maintenance, storage, care and other concerns of the bulk bags, shipping them to you when you place your next order.

This means you’re worrying mostly about ordering ahead of need, which greatly simplifies your logistics and supply chain requirements.

5. Compliance Considerations 

Whether it’s you or your provider, there should always be a rubber stamp that certifies your bags and marks them as safe for one additional use.

A wide range of compliance considerations governs your industry for the use of bulk bags, reconditioned or new, and all of your operations need to make sure they’re meeting those requirements. Your reconditioning partners should always test and certify used FIBC bulk bags to meet the standards of your industry.

This is typically easy to achieve when you’re working with a strong service provider for your used bags or if you’re reusing bags within your own system. Your team or your partner needs to stand by the bags and products, so it’s a good idea to always look for a field-ready product.

Your bags always need to make sure you’re maintaining compliance, and it’s up to you to keep your operations or your vendor in check.

How to Store Bulk Bags 

You will need to store filled bulk bags as per the requirements of the materials you’re using. There is no true guidance beyond keeping them safe from harm and spillage.

Empty FIBCs and their liners need some additional storage care because you will need to clean them and remove as much particulate and other materials as possible. It’s best to store them under strong cover, flattened and grouped together as much as possible. This can help limit any accidental exposure to sunlight, damage to the bags or exposure to a hazardous environment.

When at all possible, try to avoid storing bags in a way that puts undue pressure on areas of the bags because weight and wear could make these components more susceptible to damage.

If you’re storing filled FIBCs, it is always best to stack them in a stable way, assuming the FIBC is designed to be stacked. It’s highly recommended to consult your supplier to find out the bag compliance and best stacking methods.

Bulk Bag UV Protection

Sometimes you may need to store your used bulk bags outdoors. Whenever this occurs, always make sure the top of your storage environment is secure and not prone to leaks or UV exposure. One major consideration in outdoor spaces is that FIBCs should not be stored in areas where water is likely to pool. Standing water can do significant harm to your bulk bags and cause them to quickly degrade.

What Products Can You Store in Bulk Bags?

Considering new versus used bulk bags will make a difference to what you can and should store in your FIBCs. Design and ratings allow for a variety of materials from food and pharmaceuticals to hazardous and explosive materials.

Your chief concern needs to be ensuring your bags meet regulatory standards and compliance requirements for your specific application. Your provider and your team should test used bags if you’re handling hazardous materials that the UN or DOT regulates. Turn to FIBCA for specific compliance requirements based on your industry and usage.

One special note is that FIBCs dealing with explosive materials need to always adhere to your anti-stat needs. If you mix your bags together and your operations don’t ensure anti-stat materials are always in use, you face significant dangers. Suppliers should be able to help you with recommendations for both bags and the overall areas where you’re processing these materials.

Goods will change the stability of your bags, so be sure you have a proper control scheme in place to adjust for differing stability requirements.

Industries That Can Use Bulk Bags

Many industries can apply used bulk bags to their daily functions. Because of their versatility and durability, FIBCs are useful to transport goods efficiently and optimize your storage tactics. Some industries that commonly use FIBC bags include: 

  • Agriculture: Agricultural companies can benefit from used bulk FIBC bags. The size and durability of used FIBC bags make the transportation and handling process for seeds and fertilizers more efficient. The handles allow for better convenience when moving products, and various bag sizes help agricultural companies move large amounts of seeds and fertilizers. The bags are great at protecting products from heat, water and pests, so you can maintain your product’s quality. 
  • Construction: Construction companies and teams can use used bulk bags to transport several types of materials to and from sites. The bags make it easier for teams to bring building materials, such as stone, wood and metal, to sites. When you finish at sites, you can use the bags to remove any debris and unused materials. If you need sand or gravel, teams can trust used FIBC bags to carry them without leaks. Additionally, the bags are easy to stack and store in transport for increased efficiency. 
  • Pharmaceutical: When FIBC bags meet the strict requirements of this industry, they’re useful for transporting and storing pharmaceuticals. They can also hold powders, chemical products and other pharmaceutical ingredients. Bulk bags can be printed on to feature information about handling and transportation requirements, which is particularly useful for pharmaceuticals with specific needs.
  • Logistics: Used FIBC bulk bags are very versatile and can apply to many different companies. Logistics teams can use reconditioned bulk bags to make warehouse management and storage more efficient, regardless of what they are storing. Because the bags will fit your products’ shape and size, you can better use and optimize storage and shelf space at your facility. Used bags cost less and store more products than boxes, allowing you to cut costs at your warehouse. 

Purchase Reconditioned FIBC Bulk Bags From Bulk Bag Reclamation

Used FIBC bulk bags offer businesses many uses and applications, helping them save money and increase profits. At Bulk Bag Reclamation, we specialize in reconditioning used FIBC bags for continual use by businesses. Especially when there are supply chain or polypropylene shortages, you can count on used FIBC bags to provide the same quality transportation and storage needs for your company. 

At Bulk Bag Reclamation, we have a careful quality testing process to ensure all used bags meet our and your standards. When you use our reconditioned bags, you’ll get high-functioning bags that can continue to benefit your supply chain and storage processes. 

When you’re ready to learn more about used and recycled bulk bags specifically to save money and improve your operation, contact Bulk Bag Reclamation for a free quote on a bag to fit your needs. Be sure to ask about our cleanliness guarantee so your bags are free from moisture and hazardous materials.

Let’s keep bags out of our landfills and inject your company with operational savings today.