Flexible intermediate bulk container

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Bulk bags

A flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC), bulk bag, or big bag, is an industrial container made of flexible fabric that is designed for storing and transporting dry, flowable products, such as sand, fertilizer, and granules of plastic.[1] [2][3]

FIBCs are most often made of thick woven polyethylene or polypropylene, either coated or uncoated, and normally measure around 45–48 inches (114–122 cm) in diameter and varies in height from 100 to 200 cm (39 to 79 inches). Its capacity is normally around 1,000 kg or 2,200 lb, but the larger units can store even more. A bulk bag designed to transport one metric ton (0.98 long tons; 1.1 short tons) of material will itself only weigh 5–7 lb (2.3–3.2 kg).

Transporting and loading is done on either pallets or by lifting it from the loops. Bags are made with either one, two or four lifting loops. The single loop bag is suitable for one man operation as there is no need for a second man to put the loops on the loader hook. Emptying is made easy by a special opening in the bottom such as a discharge spout, of which there are several options, or by simply cutting it open.


Although there is disagreement on exactly where FIBCs were first made and used, it is certain that they have been employed for a variety of packaging purposes since the 1940s. These forerunners of the FIBC as we know it today were manufactured from PVC rubber and generally utilized within the rubber industry for the transportation of carbon black to be used as a reinforcing agent in a variety of rubber products.

By the 1960s, with the development of polypropylene combined with advances in weaving, the bulk bags as we know them today came into being and were rapidly adopted by a wide variety of oil and chemical companies to store and transport powdered and granular products.

It was during the oil crisis of the mid-1970s that the FIBC really came into its own for transporting huge quantities of cement to the Middle East from across Europe for the rapid expansion of the oil producing countries. At its zenith, upwards of 50,000 metric tons (49,000 long tons; 55,000 short tons) of cement was being shipped out on a weekly basis to feed the vast building program.

The modern FIBC transports a growing figure of over 250,000,000 metric tons (246,000,000 long tons; 276,000,000 short tons) of product each year and is used to handle, store and move products as varied as cereals to powdered chemicals and flour to animal feeds. With a capacity of up to 3 m3 (3.9 cu yd) and load capability ranging from 0.5 to 2 metric tons (0.49 to 1.97 long tons; 0.55 to 2.20 short tons) FIBCs are highly cost effective, easily recyclable and ideal for virtually any free-flowing granule, powder, pellet or flake. FIBCs are also being developed to hold and filter fluid products.

Electrostatic properties[edit]

  • Type – A – no special electrostatic safety features
  • Type – B – Type B bags are not capable of generating propagating brush discharges. The wall of this FIBC exhibits a breakdown voltage of 4 kilovolts or less.
  • Type – C – Conductive FIBC. Constructed from electrically conductive fabric, designed to control electrostatic charges by grounding. A standard fabric used contains conductive threads or tape.
  • Type – D – Anti-static FIBCs, essentially refers to those bags which have anti-static or static dissipative properties without the requirement of grounding.

Uses to transport[edit]

  • Chemicals
  • Pharmaceutical Drugs
  • Fertilizers
  • Fiberglass
  • Food Products
  • Grains
  • Shotcrete
  • Construction materials (sand, gravel)
  • Pigments
  • Plastics
  • Refractories
  • Seeds
  • Salt
  • Peanuts
  • Starch
  • Hazardous Waste Material - UN Rated[4]
  • Flyash

Flood barrier use[edit]

Thailand utilized big bags to erect temporary walls to protect areas during the 2011 Thailand floods. Walls built using big bags instead of smaller traditionally used sandbags were termed the big bag wall, or big bag barrier.

In North America, bulk bags are often used in flood prevention as well. An 1850 kg bag (4,070 lbs) has a foot print of at least 3 feet by 3 feet, and a height of almost 4 feet – building a solid wall of sand, 400 regular sized sandbags at a time.[5]

Emptying FIBC[edit]

The discharge of FIBC for further processing the product it contains must be performed on a station specifically designed for this purpose in order to cope with different difficulties linked to the handling of Big Bags weighing in some cases more than 1000 kg. Those stations must be equipped with a crane to lift the Big Bag, a safety cage to avoid risks related to fall, and a system to contain dust emission during discharge.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ US6062732A, Scott, "Flexible intermediate bulk container", published 2000 
  2. ^ US5244280A, Porter, "Flexible intermediate bulk containers", published 1993 
  3. ^ {{cite patent - | number =US5556205A | title =Flexible, intermediate bulk container | pubdate =1996 | inventor =Gallie | url =https://patents.google.com/patent/US5556205A/en}}
  4. ^ Moellman, Mark (December 2016). "Bulk Bags and The UN Code". www.inter-bulk.com.
  5. ^ MiniBulk: Flood Prevention with Bulk Bags
  6. ^ http://www.powderprocess.net/Equipments%20html/Big_Bag_Tipping.html

Further reading[edit]

  • Yam, K. L., "Encyclopedia of Packaging Technology", John Wiley & Sons, 2009, ISBN 978-0-470-08704-6
  • Guide for Handling Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers, [1]
  • BS EN 1898:2001 Specifications for flexible intermediate bulk containers (FIBCs) for non-dangerous goods