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Bulk Bag Economics 104: Going the Distance

Posted by Marty Dilworth on Thu, May 1, 2014 @ 04:05 AM

FIBC bulk bags are tough. Period. Two kilograms of properly engineered plastic, sewn together by hand, can safely transport over 2,000 kgs of granular material with ease.

That is an impressive feat of design and manufacturing. In fact, bulk bags are so tough, the industry standard safety ratio is 5:1. That is, a 1,000 kg bag will not fail until a minimum of 5,000 kgs of force have been applied.

Imagine if you could jam 2,500 kgs into your half-ton truck before the wheels come off! However, bulk bags do have two manageable weaknesses, and today we are going to teach you how to get the most out of your bags.

boxer punching bag

1. Sunlight - The Unrelenting Plastic Killer

Have you ever noticed what happens to plastic when you leave it in the sun for extended periods? That once impermeable, almost indestructible material is now looking rather sad and fragile compared to the glory days.

UV rays have a tremendous impact on any and all thermoplastic polymers. So much in fact, that over exposure to sunlight can turn your previously solid bulk bag into a pile of dust, and your once vivid logo into a barely recognizable mess.

So what can you do to keep your beautifully branded bags from turning into terribly trashed totes? The first step to keeping your sun-exposed bulk bag alive is to use UV treated fabric and inks.

An anti-oxidant chemical is introduced during the initial extrusion process. This additive helps to manage the natural oxidization process that occurs when sunlight interacts with polypropylene. You might have read the terms "free radical" and "anti-oxidant" while shopping for vitamins.

Much like the molecular processes that occur inside our bodies, sunlight affects the molecular structure of the carbon atoms in plastics as well. A free radical is formed, it reacts with oxygen, and starts a chain reaction that causes tiny cracks to form. More sunlight keeps the process going until the polymer is broken down to the point of being unrecognizable, unsafe, and unusable.

When it comes to UV inks, not all inks are the same. Lighter colours like yellow, oranges and pastels will fade very quickly even with UV treated inks. Darker colours are more resistant to the damaging effects of UV rays. So your neon-lime green sign looks great on the building, but it might not be the best logo for your bags.

Another simpler option is to have overpack bags or tarpaulins to cover your filled bags if they are outside. Give the sun another layer of plastic to eat before it eats your bulk bags.

There are a few things that can be done, but nothing on Earth can prevent UV degradation, we can only manage it as best we can. MiniBulk will consult with you to learn your unique requirements and figure out the best course of action to ensure your bulk bags stand up to the Sun's beating rays.

2. Sharps - Slice and Dice

While bulk bags are really tough as a unit when used properly, their individual parts can be susceptible to damage. For example, the parts of the bag that come into contact with forklifts, cranes, or any other handling equipment can wear out. To avoid having any failures happen in your facility, the simplest thing you can do is ensure your forklift tines are smooth and even. The smallest metal burr can create a barely visible weak point in the loops, and you won't know until your precious cargo is on the shop floor.

If you require a multi-trip bag (multiple handlings via forklift, crane, warehouse shuffling, etc), we can add a wear sleeve to the lifting loops as well. This is just a sleeve of polypropylene that fits over top of the lifting loops. Much like putting a tarp over your bags to protect them from UV rays, these sleeves will take the brunt of the force and wear out before the loops do.

Another way to make the loops more resilient is to change the material they are made from. The majority of bags you see will have polypropylene loops. Densely packed and twisted, these loops are very strong on their own, but there is an even stronger material that can be used.

Some bags are made with polyester loops, or "seat belt" material. These smooth looking lift loops are extremely durable and are the loops of choice on a multi-trip bag. Polyester loops are more expensive than regular polypropylene loops, but if your product is putting on a lot of miles before it sees the end-user, it is a necessity.

Read the rest of the series! The Economics of Bulk Bags: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

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Topics: bulk bag longevity, bulk bag, branded bags, product packaging, custom FIBC