History of the IBC Tote – Intermediate Bulk Containers

Posted by ReUsed USA
On December 20, 2022

How Intermediate Bulk Containers (IBCs) have developed over time

IBCs( Intermediate Bulk Containers) tanks (also called IBC totes, IBC tanks, or pallet tanks) are industrial-grade containers designed to store, handle, and transport liquids, semisolids, pastes, or solids in large quantities. Flexible IBCs and rigid IBCs make up the two main categories of IBC tanks. [2] Many IBC tanks are reused or repurposed. [3]

Do you know that IBC tanks have only been invented about thirty years ago? They are often used in modern warehouses to transport liquids, powdered products, food, and other goods.

In 1992, an employee at a manufacturing company sought a better way to store materials than the standard 55 gallon barrels.

Plastic and metal drums were commonly used in the past to store liquids, powders, and other goods, but their cylindrical shape made them difficult to store, transport, and empty. It was because of this that Olivier J. L. D’Hollander invented the first IBC tote

Industrial storage containers were thus improved with the introduction of IBCs. In addition to being more cost-effective and space-saving than traditional steel drums, their cubic design allows them to be stored and transported more easily. As a result of D’Hollander’s 1993 patent, many companies began producing IBCs, and these containers quickly became the industry standard for storing food, bulk goods, liquids, and other materials.

Industrial packaging manufacturers are always developing new IBCs to meet the needs of their clients, and today you can find IBCs with a wide array of features and specifications for a wide range of industries.

Used IBC Totes hisory

275 Gallon IBC tote Stack

Inventing the IBC Tote Container

During his time working at Dow Corning S.A., a manufacturer of silicone products as well as adhesives and sealants, Olivier J. L. D’Hollander invented the first IBC tank in 1992.

In most industries, liquid and powdered goods are transported in smaller 55 gallon drums, which D’Hollander invented in order to provide a better alternative.

In terms of appearance, the first IBC container looked a lot like a standard IBC tank today. IBC tanks designed by D’Hollander included square containers mounted on pallets that were surrounded by protective metal cages. Due to the design of the IBC, many inefficiencies associated with using 55 gallon metal drums were no longer a problem.

What is the purpose of the IBC?

In order to solve the problems caused by 55 gallon drums for storing and moving materials, D’Hollander and his associates invented the IBC.

Until IBCs were invented, most manufacturers transported liquids and powders in drums. Due to their ability to securely store corrosive or volatile materials, these containers were standard in many industries.Shipping, filling, and storing 55 gallon drums has been problematic for many companies.

The first concern is the difficulty of transporting these drums. In order to prepare them for shipment, workers had to transport each one individually either on pallets or on a truck because of their unwieldy cylindrical shape. It was also necessary to firmly secure drums to pallets and trucks to ensure that they would not tip over during transport, which made packing them very time-consuming, and accidents could still occur even if they were properly strapped down.

There were also problems with filling and emptying metal and plastic fiber drums. Often, workers had to use specialized tools and devices to remove liquids or powders from these drums, since most could only be opened from the top.

Last but not least, steel drums were not particularly efficient when it came to packing and storing. There is a lot of “dead space” between barrels when packing cylindrical containers, so using 200 liter drums wastes valuable storage space. As a result, D’Hollander and his associates invented the first IBC tank as a simpler alternative to these drums.

What Was the Reason for the Success of the First IBC Tote?

The efficiency and usability of D’Hollander’s invention quickly made it a success within his company and among other manufacturers. 

Originally, IBCs were square-shaped and attached to pallets, making them more stable and easier to pack and store in warehouses and shipping containers. Besides being larger and cubic in shape, it also allowed more material to be stored in less space, and it could be easily handled with a forklift or pallet jack since it was attached to pallets.

Furthermore, the design of the IBC tanks in this warehouse minimized spills and accidents. Due to its square shape, IBCs are inherently more stable than cylindrical drums, and stacks of IBCs do not require as much security as pallets of drums. The IBC’s improved design thus made falls, spills, and other issues less likely to occur.

It was also easier for workers to fill and extract material from IBCs. Worker efficiency could be improved by customizing these containers with different openings, valves, and spouts.

The IBC tank D’Hollander developed ended up being a success, and in 1993 he patented it. As described in his patent, IBCs are stackable, rectangular containers with pallet-compatible bases.

ibc tote cap

ibc tote cap

An Overview of the Evolution and Modification of IBC Containers

In the years following D’Hollander’s patent issuance, many manufacturers produced their own versions of the standard IBC tank.Initially, IBCs were used in manufacturing and wholesale for storing and transporting powders, liquids, and other substances. As time passed, however, many people discovered new uses for IBCs, such as storing food and collecting rainwater.

Many industries soon adopted the IBC as a standard storage container, but some users encountered a handful of problems. These large containers often settled mixtures, and the metal protective cages of IBCs are not suitable for manufacturers producing flammable products.

IBC manufacturers, however, adapted their products to suit their customers’ needs, given the utility of the containers, leading to the modern IBC.

IBC manufacturers adapted to the problems caused by standard IBCs, resulting in the modern IBC, in the following section, which discusses how the IBC became widely used across many industries.

What are the uses of an IBC tank

Dow Corning, which primarily manufactured industrial, silicone-based products, invented the IBC, so it is natural that companies used them to store and ship these items.

Manufacturers began to use IBCs more frequently, and other industries began to adopt them for storing and transporting goods. In the food industry, for instance, IBCs are effective for storing liquids and powders, and their nozzles can disperse liquids efficiently.

Water storage and wastewater collection are also new uses for IBCs.

Today, IBCs are commonly used in a variety of industries, including:

  1. Manufacturing of chemicals;
  2. Petroleum Products;
  3. Food manufactering ;
  4. Pharmaceutical Industry ;
  5. Construction projects
  6. Waste Water.

In spite of IBCs’ widespread use, their basic design remains the same across most industries: a container attached to a pallet and protected by a cage.

Problems with IBCs

Initially, manufacturers encountered problems with IBCs because mixtures settled at the bottom. Initially, companies mixed ingredients efficiently in barrels, but since an IBC holds more than 750 liters, mixing a solution in an IBC required more effort.

As a result, manufacturers created mixers that fit these containers, and they also began allowing companies to request specific features, such as larger openings for their IBCs.

As a result of the requirements for sanitation and food safety in IBCs, other problems arose in the food industry. Initially, some IBCs failed to meet the rigorous safety standards governing food storage and manufacturing in order to ensure product quality. There are certain food production settings in which wooden pallets are not suitable, and to avoid contamination, IBCs themselves must be precisely manufactured.

IBC manufacturers developed versions of the container with plastic pallets and food-safe materials to address these issues. It was yet another example of the industrial packaging industry adapting to its customers’ needs.

Companies that used flammable chemicals or whose facilities were designated as EX zones were initially unable to use many IBCs, especially those with metal cages, because they were not compliant with those environments. It was recognized by the IBC manufacturing industry that these types of clients had a need for IBCs and they created products to meet those needs.

This method of resolving problems is still used today by the IBC manufacturing industry. Many manufacturers offer custom IBCs to meet customer needs when a current or potential client cites a problem.

Many of the major issues that companies have faced over the years have been addressed by IBC manufacturers, but some issues, such as leaks and defects, still occur. Manufacturers of IBCs have strict quality control programs, such as Greif’s Zero Leak Initiative, to combat these problems.

The Standard IBC Tote

Among all the current intermediate bulk container designs, caged IBC totes are one of the most commonly used. The most common container is the caged IBC tote, which is used for storing, transporting, and integrating water among other commodities. When it comes to hazardous materials, caged IBCs are often used as one-time containers, but can also be reused under many conditions. A protective cage frame, often galvanized steel, supports an interior liner made of blow-mold polyethylene and is structurally supported by the cage. In addition to liquids and semisolids, caged IBCs can also handle solids in bulk. The use of caged IBC totes for harsh chemicals can present certain safety and compatibility concerns, especially for hazardous liquids

Many industries use IBCs to collect, store, transport, and dispense various substances today.

D’Hollander’s original IBC design is largely repeated in most IBC designs. In most IBCs currently available on the market, a rectangular plastic tank is mounted on a pallet and enclosed in a protective cage.

The basic design, however, can be modified in many ways. For example, some IBCs are entirely made of metal, while others do not have a metal cage at all. Cylindrical vats can even be mounted on mobile pallets in some IBCs. In general, IBCs have been adapted to meet the varied needs of industrial packaging customers.

There is currently a major sustainability effort underway by many companies in the IBC manufacturing industry. The fact that IBCs can be reused is one of the most significant benefits of these containers. However, some buyers frequently use and discard them, producing substantial amounts of waste as a result.

There are a number of industrial packaging companies that have implemented internal recycling programs to promote the recycling of IBCs. In addition to professional cleaning and repair services, some companies also provide full-scale recycling services to ensure IBCs can be used to their full potential. As part of the recycling process, IBCs are usually cleaned, refurbished, and salvaged if they are broken or worn. By offering steep discounts on used or refurbished IBCs, these companies also encourage their customers to buy sustainably.

In order to meet the demands of their customers, IBC manufacturers will continue to pursue sustainability.

History of IBC Totes

Used 275 Gallon IBC tanks

Most common types of IBC Totes

The six major styles of IBC containers that are used to transport materials are listed below. Materials to be transported and environmental conditions determine which type of design is appropriate for each application.

Rigid HDPE Plastic

  • Plastic containers cannot be collapsed and maintain their form factor at all times since they are constructed from a variety of plastics.

Metal IBC Tank

  • The metal body of this style (often aluminum or steel) is collapsible when empty, allowing it to be easily returned.

Flexible IBC Container

  • A woven material IBC can be constructed from paper, plastic, or fabric, and can be collapsed when empty, similar to a metal IBC.


  • With a rigid construction, this fiberboard design maintains its shape when filled or empty.

Composite IBC

  • Composite designs use a single outer structure, which can be rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible.

Wooden IBC

  • This type of container can be made from a variety of types of wood, and is also rigid at all times.

Dimensions and size of IBC totes

The standard dimensions of an IBC base are 45 inches long by 45 inches wide. IBC sizes range from 110 to 550 gallons. Containers of this size can be easily transported together with other logistics shipments because their base size matches pallets.

Depending on the IBC volume of construction, the height will vary with each container. In bulk material storage, the most common sizes are 275 gallons and 330 gallons due to their even division into 55-gallon drums. In addition, each IBC is designed to be accessible by forklift or pallet jack, with two-way, three-way, or four-way mobility.

ibc tote valve

ibc tote valve

Materials used to make an IBC tote

Inner Container (Bottle or Bladder)

The most common material used to manufacture IBC containers is high-density polyethene (HDPE). HDPE is used by manufacturers for several reasons, including:

  • IBCs are lightweight, but strong – it takes a great deal of damage to damage them

  • Designed to withstand all weather conditions

  • Mold- and rot-resistant

A container plays an important role in the life of an IBC, so it makes sense to make them durable.

Metal Outer cage

IBC containers are typically protected by an outer cage made of strong materials. The outer cage is typically made of steel or iron. IBCs are often used in environments where heavy-duty material is necessary to protect them from the elements and extend the life of both the IBC and its contents.

Steel sheets can be used to cover hazardous materials in IBCs. Using an outer cage of this type will protect the surrounding area from contamination as well as cover the IBC completely

Valves(ball and butterfly)

In IBCs, polypropylene is used for the valves and smaller parts. The reason manufacturers use polypropylene is that it is an inexpensive material that is strong and flexible. As well as being resistant to various chemicals, it is ideal for use on IBCs.

Pallet Base

Pallets provide support and protection for IBCs and their contents. A pallet will be used to transport the IBC, which will be placed on the pallet. IBCs can be moved easily with the pallet’s forklift entry points.

Most pallets are made of metal but some may also be created with plastic of wood.

The reason that pallets are made of these materials is that they are strong materials that can safely hold a full IBC and won’t be damaged by poor weather conditions.

inside of ibc tote

How is manufacturing done?

It is made from blow-molded plastic, which is heated and blown into a cavity in the mold to create a hollow object.

Raw plastic is heated to form a parison. On top of the mould, the plastic model is attached. The plastic material is then stretched across the interior walls of the mould cavity by air blowing down on it.

Feel free to contact ReUsed USA for any IBC Tote questions 

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