An FIBC (Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container) commonly referred to as a “Bulk Bag”, “Big Bag” or “Tote” is an intermediate bulk container, having a body made of a flexible woven material (typically polypropylene), which
- Is handled mechanically by forklift 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 (including, but not limited to, materials in powder, flake, or granular form).
- Does not require further packaging
The dimensions, handling, filling, discharging and barrier features of an FIBC can be customized based on the needs of the customer. FIBCs typically hold anywhere from 1000 – 4000 lbs (500 – 2000 kg) of product.
Want to know more about the history of FIBCs? Click here for a summary in the Resource Center.
FIBC’s are commonly used for dry flowable products such as, but not limited to grains, seeds, salts, powdered coatings, sands, clays, cement, ferroalloys, and resins. They are frequently used in the food, pharmaceutical, agricultural and chemical industries.
Additional details will be required for the filling and discharging environment, but here are a few product details that are needed to help ensure you get a FIBC that will meet the basic requirements of your product.
- Product bulk density (lbs. per cubic foot or kg per cubic meter)
- Safe working load (SWL) / Net fill weight needed per FIBC
- Is the product a hazardous material / dangerous good
- Does the FIBC need to meet food safety requirements
- Does the FIBC need to meet pharmaceutical industry requirements
- Product mesh size
- Moisture percentage
- Special barrier needs (i.e. hydroscopic?)
- Product characteristics (free flowing, bridging, static build up)
- Filling temperature
FIBCA developed a FIBC Design Guide to help potential Bulk Bag (FIBC) users identify the answers to critical questions when determining what FIBC best fits their particular application. The guide is intended to assist those users/buyers when sourcing a bulk bag and for those who have never spec’d out their package, but now must. Click here to get a copy of the FIBC Design Guide.
- 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.
FIBC’s are commonly mechanically handled by one of the following means:
- Lift Loops: Loops are located at the corners of the FIBC. The loops are either sewn onto the body of the FIBC or they are 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: Created by extending the lift loop material or body fabric so it can be gathered at one point above the bag.
- Sleeve Lift: The tubular sleeves running along two opposite edges of the FIBC.
Yes, FIBC’s can be used with or without liners depending on the needs of the product and the distribution environment. Should a liner be needed, there are two basic styles of liners:
- Form Fit: Designed to take the exact shape of the FIBC. Form-Fit Liners will allow improved filling and complete discharging of product. Unlike a basic “tube liner”, Form-Fit Liners offer a flat top and bottom and incorporate a spout diameter and length to best compliment the FIBC’S fill and discharge spouts.
- Tubular: A liner with no spouts or contours, it is a straight cylinder, which may or may not have one end heat-sealed.
Both of these liners can be loosely inserted or secured with ties, tabs or glue. Liners can also provide antistatic or barrier properties such as oxygen, moisture or UV.
Common filling options include an open top, duffle top, conical top or a spout top. Discharging/bottom options include a duffle bottom, conical bottom or a flat bottom. The filling and discharging options selected are going to be dictated by a number of factors including:
- Filling Method (i.e conveyer, gravity, bulk bag filler)
- Where FIBC will be Filled (clearance, electro static concerns, flammable products, etc.)
- The FIBC Filling Equipment Desired or Currently Used
- Desired Fill or Packaging Rate
- Sizing Restrictions / Constraints
- Fill Spout Dimensions Required
- Controlled Discharge Desired
- Discharge Method (i.e. gravity, screw, conveyor, bottom cut, full dump)
- Where FIBC will be Discharged (clearance, manual, electro static concerns, flammable products, etc.)
- Desired Discharge Rate
- Discharge Spout Dimensions Required
- Handling Preference: Existing Hoist and Fork Loaded Trolly Frame
SWL or Safe Working Load is the amount of load, (in pounds or kilograms), which a bag is designed to carry. The design of the FIBC and the sewing method used, combine with the strength of the fabric, determines the Safe Working Load. This SWL is printed on the manufacturing label.
A coated bag incorporates an interior or exterior layer of polypropylene (PP) to reduce moisture intrusion or sifting of the contents. Also called Non-breathable or laminated fabric/bags. The uncoated FIBC has no PP coating.
A type of an FIBC construction that provides resistance from product sifting when the bag is filled with very fine materials. This typically utilizes coated fabric and filler cord in the sew lines. Commonly used in combination with a coating or an interior liner.
A feature of an FIBC fabric that provides protection from prolonged exposure to the sun’s degrading UV rays. An additive is blended with the resin prior to extrusion of the yarns to provide this protection. UV protection performance should be evaluated per the procedures set forth in the ISO 21898 standard.
Portions of a FIBC are 100% recyclable and facilities specializing in recycled plastic may or may not require these items/parts to be separated. The Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association has compiled a list of FIBC Recycling Resources which is available to view and download using the link provided.
FIBCs should only be reused within a ‘Closed Loop’ system. In a Closed Loop system the FIBC is cleaned, reconditioned and qualified for reuse to handle the same product in the same application for which the FIBC was originally designed. A Closed Loop system usually involves the cooperation of the manufacturer of the FIBC, the customer purchasing the FIBC and the end user of the FIBC.
To safely reuse FIBCs these guidelines should be followed:
- Remove all foreign matter from the FIBC’s interior.
- Ensure statically held dust is less than 4 ounces total.
- Replace liner if applicable.
- Replace web ties.
- Replace labels and tickets critical to safe FIBC use.
- Replace cordlocks if necessary.
- Reasons for Rejecting a FIBC
- Lift strap damage
- Damp, wet, mold
- Wood splinters
- Printing is smeared, faded or otherwise unreadable
- The manufacturer should maintain a record of origin, product used in the FIBC and the quantity of uses or turns.
- FIBCs should be randomly selected for top lift testing. The frequency and quantity shall be determined by the manufacturer and/or user based on their specific situation.
- The top lift testing will be conducted per the latest version of the ISO 21898 standard.
- Test results should be maintained by the manufacturer for a minimum of three years.
Only stack FIBCs if they are designed to be stacked, you are sure of their stability and they are stacked using a “Pyramid” or “Supported” stacking method:
- 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 or repair a damaged bag without first removing all bags stacked on top.
As of this present date, the FIBCA is not aware of, nor has it ever been presented with any data, test reports, or studies determining the shelf life of an FIBC. Any recommendations in regards to the shelf life of an FIBC, are solely the responsibility of each company making such declarations. The Flexible Intermediate Bulk Container Association does not endorse any typical shelf life for a FIBC / Bulk Bag. Variables such as UV inhibitor used, construction (fabric weight, thread, webbing, etc.), exposure to environmental hazards (UV, temperature and humidity), storage methods, handling methods and the contents of the FIBC can dramatically impact the shelf life of a FIBC. The best method for determining if a FIBC remains suitable for use is to conduct periodic performance testing (top lift, UV, etc.) on samples and compare the results to the results from the newly manufactured samples from same lot. Samples should continue to meet industry standards such as those set forth in ISO 21898.
Always protect your FIBCs from the harmful effects of UV rays (sunlight) and inclement weather (rain, snow, etc.). Over time, exposure to UV rays and inclement weather will weaken the strength of a FIBC. Always try to store your empty FIBC’s inside a covered facility or warehouse that is free from any water or moisture contamination that could come into contact with your FIBCs and damage them. Storing empty or filled FIBC’s outside is not recommended, but if you do, you should always cover them with some type of material that will prevent their exposure to UV rays and inclement weather. There is no guarantee that FIBCs stored outside & unprotected from the UV rays & inclement weather will be safe to handle.
A static protective FIBC is a bag that incorporates design features to protect against the hazards created by static electricity. An evaluation of the materials used, machinery, and the process is required to determine the static discharge hazard and the level of static protection required.
A static dissipative FIBC is a type of static protective bulk bag 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.
The term “antistatic FIBC” is sometimes used as a synonym for static protective FIBC. It is also used to describe FIBCs that offer some protection against static electrical hazards, but do not incorporate the charge dissipation mechanisms found in bulk bags that offer full static protection.
IMPORTANT NOTE! Always ensure that the FIBCs are tested and labeled in accordance with IEC 61340-4-4 Ed. 3.0 and that the type of static protective FIBC being used is appropriate for the flammable or explosive environment.
There are primarily three types of bags for controlling the static charge associated with some processes:
A type “B” bag is 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)
A type “C” bag is 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 the ground connection is not present or has become damaged
A type “D” bag is 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.
IMPORTANT NOTE! Type A FIBC’s are made from fabric or plastic sheet without any measures against the buildup of static electricity.
Always check with your FIBC manufacturer that your static protective FIBC is fitted with the correct anti-static liner before handling. The chart below is only a general guideline. Always reference the current IEC standard for all of the requirements.
Inner liners and FIBC: combinations that are permissible and not permissible in hazardous explosive atmospheres
|Type L1||Type L2||Type L3|
|TYPE B||Not Permissible||Permissible||Permissible|
|TYPE C||Permissible||Permissible||Not Permissible|
|TYPE D||Not Permissible||Permissible||
Important! Always reference the ISO standard for the current requirements.
A flexible intermediate container can carry anywhere from 1000-4000 lbs of product, so it is critical you are aware of the Do’s and Don’ts that apply to their use. The guidelines are far too extensive to include in this FAQ, but the full set of FIBC Safe Handling Guidelines are available to view and download in the Resource Center. Click here for full set of FIBC Safe Handling Guidelines.
Yes, if it is an approved package for your particular product, the package and any components are compatible and the FIBC selected fully complies with all the requirements contained in the applicable regulatory code.
Regulatory Code Links
- United Nations Recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods
- U.S. Department of Transportation’s Title 49 CFR
- European Agreement Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Road (ADR)
- Mexican Secretariat of Communications and Transportation’s NOM-029-SCT2
- International Maritime Dangerous Goods Code (IMDG)
- Regulations Concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Rail (RID)
- European Agreement concerning the International Carriage of Dangerous Goods by Inland Waterways (ADN)
- Canadian General Standards Board CAN/CGSB-43.146
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.
Makings must be durable, legible and placed in a location so as to be readily visible.
Letters, numerals and symbols shall be at least 12 mm high.
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).
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.
When evaluating the performance of a FIBC for non-hazardous goods the ISO 21898 standard should be used.
While many users of FIBCs may request an “FDA Approved” bulk bag, it is important to note that such a product does not exist. The Food & Drug Administration does not issue any approvals or certifications of FIBCs or FIBC liners. The FDA regulations that govern food contact can be found here. With regard to polypropylene resin, a major component of most FIBC fabrics, FDA Food Contact Regulation 21 CFR 177.1520 states that they must be 100% virgin.
The topic of food safety in the packaging industry is constantly evolving, with tougher industry standards and increased government regulations (FSMA) becoming the norm. FIBCA recognizes that there are many adequate food safety processes, accreditations, certifications, and schemes for the production of FIBCs; and therefore recommends that all manufacturers, distributors, and users of FIBCs confirm that their process is adequate for each FIBC application. While FIBCA does not endorse one food safety scheme over another, it does strongly support the effort of the Global Food Safety Initiative to establish a global standard.
The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) was signed into law in January 2011. The purpose of the 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.
All industries have their own language and knowing how people refer to things will help you identify available options and communicate with supplier. Click here for some bulk bag/FIBC terms that you may encounter.