IBC Totes vs 55 Gallon Drums (What to Use?)

Posted by ReUsed USA
On January 1, 2023

Used IBC Totes vs 55 Gallon Plastic/Metal Barrels


This section provides information on the about intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) and 55 Gallon Barrels.

The IBC container, plastic drum, or barrel can be used to transport and store liquids, semi-solids, pastes, and solids. In any manufacturing industry dealing with logistics, transport, and storage, they are standard equipment. Initially, IBCs were designed as disposable packaging, but they quickly became popular as reusable transport packaging. This blog compares barrels and ibc tote and the proper way of disposing of discarded IBCs and production waste.

What is an IBC tote?


IBCs (intermediate bulk containers) are reusable containers that are suitable for a wide range of uses. With a highly stable construction and high level of safety during transportation and storage, these containers offer a practical alternative to drums and tank trucks. They are transportable, storeable and offer a practical alternative to drums and tank trucks. They facilitate the handling of liquids and granular materials in a significant way.

Liquids can be handled, stored and shipped in a cost-effective, reliable manner using poly totes. Rotationally molded HDPE IBCs are highly durable, single-piece polyethylene IBCs, all made of polyethylene. In addition to being UN/DOT certified, these tanks can store liquids with a specific gravity of 1.9, which makes them ideal for transporting and storing chemicals.

Additionally, these poly IBCs meet USDA and FDA food-grade requirements when purchased new. Poly totes feature heavy-duty bases that can be accessed by forklifts and pallet jacks in addition to their standard capacities of 275 and 330 gallons. You can stack the tanks efficiently with stacking lugs, which saves you time, storage space, and freight charges.

Used 275 Gallon IBC totes

Used 275 Gallon IBC totes

A brief history of the IBC

Various companies and manufacturers claim to have invented the versatile container. The logistics department of Herberts paint manufacturer is credited with developing a pallet-adapted cube-shaped container as early as the 1960s. In 1992, a Dow Corning employee filed a patent application for “intermediate bulk containers.”

The materials used to manufacture IBC containers are:

IBCs are commonly designed as rigid containers, also referred to as bulk containers or K-cans. The pallet is made up of a pallet, HDPE plastic bottle and metal cage. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is used for the plastic plastic bottle tank. The plastic bottle is surrounded by a steel frame. Steel, wood, plastic, or a combination of wood and plastic are the materials used for the pallet bolted underneath. A discharge tap is also commonly installed on IBCs to drain residue at the bottom.

IBC containers are used in what industries ?

  • Oil and gas industry (solvents, cleaning agents, adhesives, acids, alkalis)

  • Drugs, tablets, and solvents (pharmaceuticals, cosmetics)

  • Industries involved in the food industry (liquid, granulated or powdered items like fruit concentrates, dairy products, syrups)

  • Production of spirits and wine (viticulture and fermentation)

  • Insecticides, pesticides, sand, and cereals (agriculture)

  • Paints and varnishes that are flammable and gasoline, in the automotive industry

A common use of these containers is to store and transport liquids in the food and beverage industry. It is not uncommon for companies shipping sensitive products to need new containers to use poly composite IBCs, often known as “one-way totes” since they are so inexpensive.

There is no recommendation in the above list of applications for IBCs. Transport containers are also used in a variety of other industries.

What are the different sizes of IBCs?

Most IBC totes are either 275 Gallon or 330 Gallon. That being said they can range anywhere from 55 gallons to 500+ Gallons. Containers of 275 gallons and 330 gallons have a height of 46″ and 53″ respectively. The standard poly composite tote tank has a 40″ x 48″ base. Poly composite IBCs are similar to pallets, but they can hold up to six 55-gallon barrels!

What are the types of IBC containers?

  • A composite IBC is composed of a plastic container, a grid cage, and a pallet

  • A plastic IBC is a container without a tube frame made of plastic

  • Stainless steel IBC: made entirely of metal

  • IBCs made from flexible materials (see recycling big bags)

  • Plastic IBCs that fold are called foldable IBCs



55 Gallon drums



55 Gallon Metal Drums

55 Gallon Metal Drums



Typically made with a metal or plastic container. They allow for 55 gallons of material and can fit 4 drums on a pallet.

Liquids, semisolids, and pastes are commonly shipped and stored in HDPE drums and canisters as disposable containers. With or without lids, they are usually made of polyethylene (PE) or high-density polyethylene (HDPE). Plastic drums and canisters are also approved for transporting hazardous materials and come in capacities varying from 3.6 to 220 liters.

Are IBCs or barrels better?

Bulk packaging with IBCs has many advantages over metal or plastic barrels. The capability of these tanks is greater than that of round drums and other tanks. As well as saving storage space, the containers also facilitate transport and storage. For instance, just four drums can fit on a pallet with a total volume of 220 gallons whereas an IBC of this size can hold 500 gallons. Additionally, filling and emptying the tanks only requires one operation, which simplifies the process. Integrated pallets make it possible for IBCs to be transported and stacked by forklifts and pallet trucks.

Reconditioned (Recon) IBCs: what are they?

Known also as a Recon Tote, a reconditioned IBC container has undergone multiple cleaning stages. Reconditioning is the process of refurbishing intermediate bulk containers that have already been used. All residual materials are removed from the tank containers after they have been pre-washed and triple rinsed with hot water. A condition check is also performed on the containers. In addition, they should be leak-tight. Only then can IBCs be guaranteed to be in a reuseable condition. The pallet is repaired after sticker residue is removed. Lastly, the IBCs are resold.

What is the proper way to dispose of and recycle IBCs?

Shredding is the first step in waste treatment or recycling, and the same holds true for IBCs. By conveyor belt, crane or forklift, IBCs, plastic garbage cans and containers can be fed into the shredder’s hopper. The hydraulic ram presses the plastic against the rotating rotor and uniformly shreds it. The shredders reduce IBCs to platic scrap.

A secondary pressing device can be installed on shredders for recycling oversized containers if necessary. Tanks, for example, can be reliably shredded despite their size.

When drums and containers are shredded, what happens to them?

In a washing plant, the plastic flakes are washed and dried after they have been shredded. Recycling extruders can then recycle these into degranulate. It is then possible to use the pelletized plastic waste in the production process, such as pallets or corner protectors. Not only does this represent a major cost-saving potential, but it’s also entirely circular in its approach.

Also, used IBCs can be repurposed in a variety of other ways besides recycling and reconditioning, such as rainwater barrels, raised beds and pools.

What about IBC Totes that contained hazmat material?

The transport of hazardous materials is also permitted in intermediate bulk containers. Logisticsians always face a challenge when transporting hazardous materials, such as caustic solutions, solvents, or acids: the proper disposal of containers. A material’s aggressive properties are extremely important when it comes to recycling this contaminated waste in an environmentally friendly manner. Most IBC Tote recyclers are well equped to handle any haz mat materials. Laws limit the use of composite IBCs with hazardous goods to a maximum of five years.

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