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Bulk Bag Economics 104: Knowing Your Enemy

FIBC bulk bags are tough. Period. Two kilograms of properly engineered polymers 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 minimum ISO safety factor is 5:1, and the maximum is 8:1. That is, a bulk bag with a 1,000 kg safe working load will not fail in design testing until a minimum of 5,000 kgs of force has been applied. Imagine if you could jam 5,000 kgs into your half-ton truck before the wheels come off!

However, bulk bags have two weaknesses: sunlight and sharps. Today we are going to teach you how to manage these weaknesses and get the most out of your bags.

Person punching a boxing bag with the text “Bulk bags are tough. Period.”

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. In fact, overexposure 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.

When manufactured to the proper ISO standards, a bulk bag will have all load-bearing materials treated for stabilization against weathering and aging. To accomplish this, a material that acts as an ultraviolet absorber or an antioxidant is added to the pre-extrusion mixture. After the extrusion and weaving processes are complete, materials are tested for tensile strength both before and after UV light exposure. Only after this proofing process is complete should materials be accepted into the bulk bag assembly process.

How can you tell if your bulk bags have been affected by excessive exposure to sunlight? The materials of the bag will become brittle and start to flake. At this point, the polymer is broken down to the point of being unsafe and unusable if it affects the load-bearing parts of the bulk bag. Getting ahead of this issue with proper testing and quality control procedures in manufacturing is vital.

In addition to proper manufacturing standards for bulk bags, most providers will include a handling recommendation to avoid storing bulk bags for an extended period of time in direct sunlight. Several options are available for working conditions where exposure to UV is unavoidable. These include tarping, capping and materials color selection - all of which give your bulk bags a fighting chance against sunlight!

There are a few things that can be done, but nothing on Earth can totally 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 appropriately used, 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 be scored, scraped or cut. To avoid any failures in your facility, the simplest thing you can do is ensure your equipment is set up for safe handling of bulk bags.

One of the most common damage occurrences results from lifting bulk bags with forklift tines with edges that are too sharp or rough. The smallest metal burr or sharpened edge can be a mortal enemy of lifting loops on FIBCs, especially when applying pressure while entering or exiting the loops. Initially, the loops may not fail, but they sustain abrasion damage that can lead to failure on subsequent lifts. It is recommended that forks be rounded to a minimum 5mm corner radius to prevent this damage.

When introducing a new lift truck or set of forks in your operation, ensure that your team files the edges accordingly. Periodically inspect the forks for any burrs that could damage bulk bags. This is especially important if your equipment is used to lift multiple types of material.

Additional options are available to protect your bulk bags in fast-moving and multi-modal handling operations. MiniBulk can consult with you on adding abrasion-resistant wear-sleeves, alternative webbing materials, or even engineered bulk bag lifting attachments for your machinery. Our team can help design the right solution for your total working environment.

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

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