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What Is A Bulk Bag?

A bulk bag is a flexible intermediate bulk container (FIBC) made of a flexible woven material, typically polypropylene, which:

  • Is handled mechanically by fork lift trucks, cranes, or hoists when filled
  • Is designed to be lifted from the top by means of integral, permanently attached devices (lift loops, stevedores or sleeves). 
  • Is intended for shipment of solid materials in powder, flake, or granular form 
  • Does not require further packaging 
  • Can typically hold 1,000-4,000 lbs depending on the bag

Other Names For Bulk Bags

FIBCs, or flexible intermediate bulk containers, go by a multitude of names. You’ll commonly find them being referred to as “bulk bags”, “big bags”, or “totes.”

Common Bulk Bag Uses

  • Flow-able products such as grains, seeds, salts, powdered coatings, sands, clay, and ferro alloys/resins 
  • They are frequently used in the food, pharmaceutical, agricultural and chemical industries

Types of Bulk Bags

  • U-Panel
    •  A bag that has one panel forming two opposite sides and the bottom, creating a “U” panel shape.
  • Circular
    • Also called a tubular bag, is made from fabric woven on a circular loom, which is then cut to the proper length for a specified bag height; thereby, eliminating the vertical seams on each of the bag’s sides.
  • Four Panel
    • Four separate pieces of fabric are sewn together to create the body of the bag.
  • Baffle
    • Pieces of fabric or other material sewn across each corner of a tubular or four – panel bag to improve a bag’s squareness, appearance, improve the stability of the load and to more efficiently utilize storage or shipping space.
  • Open Top
  • Conical Top/Bottom
  • Spout Top
  • Flat Bottom
  • Coated
    •  Also known as non-breathable bags or laminated fabric bags, incorporate an interior or exterior layer of polypropylene to moisture intrusion or sifting of the contents.
  • Non-coated
    •  Have no polypropylene coating.

Handling of FIBCs

  • Lift Loops
    • Loops are located at the corners of the FIBC (either sewn onto the body or sewn into the side seams).  The size of the loop opening, the length of the ends and strength of the webbing can be customized depending on the handling needs and safe working load.
  • Stevedore Straps
    •  A belt or rope connecting either two adjacent lift loops, or all four loops, used for single point lifting.
  • Single Point Lift
    • A loop in the center connected to each corner strap of the bag so it can be gathered at one point above the bag
  • Sleeve Lift
    • The tubular sleeves running along two opposite edges of the FIBC.

Stacking and Storing FIBCs

Stacking Bulk Bags

  • Bulk bags  should only be stacked if they are designed to be stacked 
  • Pyramid Stacking:
    • Each bag above the first layer must sit on at least four lower bags. Each layer is subsequently tiered inwards forming a pyramid structure.
  • Supported Stacking:
    • Formed against two retaining walls of sufficient strength.
  • Never approach/repair a bulk bag without removing all boxes on top

FIBC Storage

  • They should never be left outdoors or exposed to excess humidity, in-climate weather, or UV rays.
  • They should always be stored in a warehouse whenever possible.

Static Charge Control

Type D Bulk Bags

  •  constructed from static protective fabric that includes interwoven static dissipative threads and designed to prevent the occurrence of incendiary sparks, brush discharges and propagating brush discharges. Type D FIBC’s do not require grounding.
  • Used safely to transport flammable powders
  • Used safely when flammable solvents or gases are present around the bag
  • DO NOT USE when the surface is contaminated or coated with conductive products such as water or grease.

Type B Bulk Bags

  • constructed from insulating fabric with a breakdown voltage of less than 6 kV.  This provision prevents the risk of energetic sparks and propagating brush discharges which can ignite dust-air mixtures and flammable gases and solvent vapors.  Type “B” bags may be used in the presence of the combustible dusts with MIE greater than 3mJ, but only in the absence of flammable vapors of gases. Type “B” bags are sometimes called antistatic bags, but it should be noted that type “B” bags only provide limited protection against static electricity and they do not provide any mechanism for dissipating static charge.
  • Used safely to transport dry, combustible powders (MIE > 3 mJ)
  • There are to be no flammable solvents or gases present around the bag
  • DO NOT USE to transport flammable products (MIE < 3 mJ)

Type C Bulk Bags

  • constructed from fabrics having inter-connected conductive threads and designed to prevent the occurrence of incendiary sparks, brush discharges and propagating brush discharges.  The bag must be electrically grounded during filling and emptying.
  • Used safely to transport flammable powders
  • Used safely when flammable solvents or gases are present around the bag
  • DO NOT USE when ground connection is not present or has become damaged

Static Protective FIBCs

Static protective FIBCs incorporate design features to protect against the hazards created by static electricity. An evaluation of the materials used, machinery, and process is required to determine the static discharge hazard and the level of static protection required.

Static Disruptive FIBCs

Static disruptive FIBCs are made from fabric that allows static electricity to discharge safely. Static electricity may be dissipated to ground via conduction through a grounding cable, or may be dissipated into the atmosphere via a process called air ionization or corona, without the need for grounding.

Labeling Hazardous Materials

Each FIBC intended for hazardous materials / dangerous goods must be marked as follows:

  1. The United Nations packaging symbol.
  2. The code designating the type of FIBC:
    • 13H1 = FIBC, Uncoated, No Liner
    • 13H2 = FIBC, Coated, No Liner
    • 13H3 = FIBC, Uncoated, With Liner
    • 13H4 = FIBC, Coated, With liner
  3.  A capital letter designating the packing group(s) for which the design type has been approved:
    • X = Packing Groups I, II and III (IBCs for solids only)
    • Y = Packing Groups II and III
    • Z = Packing Group III only
  4. The month and year (last two digits) of manufacture.
  5. The State authorizing the allocation of the mark; indicated by the distinguishing sign for motor vehicles in international traffic.

6. The name or symbol of the manufacturer and other identification of the FIBC as specified by the competent authority.

7. The stacking test load in kg. For FIBCs not designed for stacking, a “0” must be inserted.

8. The maximum permissible gross mass in kg. The weight of the FIBC and its contents.

9. Markings must be durable, legible and placed in a location so as to be readily visible.

10. Letters, numerals and symbols shall be at least 12 mm high.

Stacking Labels

An FIBC designed for stacking or not designed for stacking, as appropriate, must be marked as follows:

  • The symbol must be displayed in a durable and visible manner.
  • The symbol must be a square with each side being not less than 100 mm (3.9 inches) by 100 mm (3.9 inches) as measured from the corner printer marks shown above. Where dimensions are not specified, all features must be in approximate proportion to those shown.
  • For FIBCs designed for stacking, the maximum permitted stacking load applicable when the FIBC is in use must be displayed with the symbol. The mass in kilograms (kg) marked above the symbol must not exceed the load imposed during the design stack test divided by 1.8. The letters and numbers indicating the mass must be at least 12 mm (0.48 inches).

Additional markings

  • Placards or Labels will also be required based on the product going in the FIBC.  Reference all applicable regulations for current placard and label requirements.

Food Safety

The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in 2011. The purpose of the FSMA legislation is to ensure that the US food supply is safe by shifting the focus of federal regulators from responding to contamination to preventing it. FSMA grants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) new authoritative powers, including mandatory recall, container detention, foreign supplier verification, and records inspection.