Intermediate Bulk Container Recycling FAQ
Does my container have value?
Like almost any used product, your container is worth what someone is willing to pay.
Usually three main factors determine if your container has value, or if it will cost you money to dispose/recycle it:
- Prior product, and can the container be cleaned. How much it costs to clean your container, or if it even CAN be cleaned, is a big factor. Typically, water is used in most cleaning processes, and while some products can be cleaned this way, others (petroleum oils, for example), present their own problems when cleaned with water. Some prior products are incompatible for re-use at all, such as many pesticides and toxic chemicals. Even many ‘food grade’ products can be considered hazardous materials (cranberry juice can have a pH level of 2.3!). All containers must be clean and free of residue prior to disposal/recycling, so proper management of the prior product can dictate much of the cost. Units with no residual product and properly triple rinsed can have more value and are generally easier to deal with.
- Container specifications. To make a container desirable for purchase, it must be made ready for what a buyer is looking for. Buyers of used/reconditioned containers often look for specific container manufacturers, specific cage and pallet types, certain valve types, and compatible prior products.
- Freight/shipping cost. Unfortunately, ‘shipping air’ is expensive. You may have the best-looking, shiny, new, one-time use, previously held deionized water container, but if it must be shipped a long distance, it can bring down the value significantly. On the other hand, if you’re right next door to a buyer, it may be a perfect match!
How is the container manufacturer important?
As with many products, there are preferences among buyers for containers from specific manufacturers. Just like you may prefer a Ford over a Chevy, some buyers demand a Schutz over a Mauser. And some buyers prefer to keep the same style of cage, so a mix of tubular steel and Grief wire style cages may not work for them.
Is the type of valve on the container important?
The type of valve is important. The most common valve type is a 2” removable ball valve. Other types may include cylinder valves, one-way check valves, or butterfly valves. Often buyers do not want these types of valves for various reasons. And of course, how the container will be connected is important, too. Most valves are 2” cam-lock style outlet (standard), but they can also be NPT, buttress, or even not connectable at all! But no matter what valve you have, if it can’t be removed, that is a BIG factor because it makes the container and valve more difficult to clean, and the valve can’t be changed to a different style, both of which reduce the value of the container.
What is a Non-Standard Valve?
Some container valves are made to a specific purpose, such as a 3” opening, or have a one-way check valve molded into the container. Sometimes products are imported into the USA in containers made in countries with different standards, or units of measure so they are incompatible with many container accessories.
How to know when the valve is removable or not?
A valve is removed from the inner tank by the neck area in between the tank and valve body. Some valves are one piece, but removable, and others are secured by a metal or plastic collar. If the valve is molded into the inner tank or “welded” to the tank, it is not removable. Valves can be removed with a special wrench that fits lugs on the neck of the valve. If your valve doesn’t have a visible way to be removed, it is considered a non-removable valve.
Do corners matter?
The 4 plastic corners in the bottom of the cage are considered an integral part of the reinforcement structure of the container and are required for certification for transportation of hazardous materials. If your container does not have these, then container likely cannot be DOT certified.
Does the pallet matter?
Most containers with full steel, full plastic, or a mix are the most common and desirable. Pallets made of wood are generally not desirable and are usually destined for disposal/recycling.
Are all the lids the same?
Most lids on top are for a 6” opening and are generally interchangeable. However, occasionally containers may have a non-standard lid (such as for a 12” opening), which makes the container generally undesirable and destined for disposal/recycling.
What is considered Food Grade?
Containers that previously held ONLY products that were intended for human consumption, or compatible with the processing or manufacture of food, are considered ‘food grade’. However, MOST of these containers cannot be cleaned and refilled with a food product.
What is a DOT Tote?
Many containers are manufactured to certain specifications that certify the container is capable of safely transporting hazardous materials. These internationally recognized specifications are known as “UN-rated” and are issued by the manufacturer of the container. They include information such as identification of the original manufacturer and container weight and capacity limits. The UN-rated containers are regulated by the US Department of Transportation and certified to be safe according to very specific standards. HOWEVER, IBC containers must be re-certified by an authorized re-manufacturer every 30 months AND be accompanied by a certificate of re-certification. Just because container has a UN label doesn’t mean it is ready for hazardous material transport. Unless it is still within its 30-month certification period, it must be disassembled, properly inspected, re-tested, and re-certified. Please consult the Hazardous Material Regulations for proper guidance.
Why are some Food Grade Products considered Hazmat?
Most people think of hazmat in terms of disasters like petroleum spills in the waterways, or animal poisonings but really, we use hazardous materials in our everyday lives. OSHA’s definition includes any substance or chemical which is a “health hazard” or “physical hazard,” including: chemicals which are carcinogens, toxic agents, irritants, corrosives, sensitizers; agents which damage the lungs, skin, eyes, or mucous membranes; chemicals which are combustible, explosive, flammable, oxidizers, pyrophorics, unstable-reactive or water-reactive; and chemicals which in the course of normal handling, use, or storage may produce or release dusts, gases, fumes, vapors, mists or smoke which may have any of the previously mentioned characteristics. (Full definitions can be found at 29 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 1910.1200.) If you think about it, this definition suggests a broad range of hazardous material products transported in bulk containers. Many food grade products are designated as a hazardous material because they are very acidic (like fruit juices) or very caustic (like food-grade cleaners such as bleach). It’s important to recognize that while a material may be hazardous, more than anything care, awareness, and understanding are the keys to successful and safe interaction. Any IBC that contained a product which requires Hazmat placards for shipping is more complicated to recondition due to the fact that Hazmat shipping rules apply, unless the container is triple rinsed, and the placards removed.
What if my container has a permanent stain, discoloration, or residue?
Even after cleaning, some containers are left with a permanent defect from shipping the prior product, such as full or partial discoloration of the plastic inner tank, or permanently affixed residue on the inside. Occasionally, these containers can be reused one or two at a time for specifically compatible purposes, but usually they have little or no value, and are often simply designated for disposal/recycling.