Comparing bulk packaging solutions: why choose FIBCs over alternatives?

Posted on 18 April 2024

If you’re a logistics manager in charge of shipping a variety of goods ranging from fine powders to bulky construction materials, this article is for you. 

You’re not short on choices: just take your pick from Flexible Intermediate Bulk Containers (FIBCs), drums, or pallet boxes. But which one is the right one?

Each option has its own pros and cons across key factors like cost, efficiency, sustainability, and safety. We’ll compare the details and find out when FIBCs might just be the right fit for many businesses looking to optimize their logistics—and when not.


One of the biggest advantages of FIBCs over other bulk packaging options is their cost-effectiveness. FIBCs are generally cheaper to produce because they require less material than more rigid containers like drums or pallet boxes. They are lightweight, which reduces shipping costs, and they can be folded flat when empty, minimizing storage space and further reducing handling costs.

  • Drums are made of steel or plastic, making them more expensive due to the cost of their materials and the process needed to shape them.
  • Pallet boxes are reusable, but at the same time bulky, meaning they take up significant storage and transport space when empty. Ultimately, that’ll lead to higher logistics costs.


FIBCs are incredibly efficient when it comes to handling, transporting, and storing a wide variety of products. You can store and transport anything safely, from fine powders to large granular materials. Plus, their design makes filling and unloading easy (if you have the right equipment), saving time and labor during those crucial hours of loading and unloading.

  • Drums typically have a smaller opening, which can make the process of filling and emptying the container more challenging—especially for large quantities or bulky materials.
  • Pallet boxes are good for solid items, but are less suitable for powders or granules without an additional liner. Adding those can complicate setup and increase handling time.


Many FIBCs are made from recyclable materials like polypropylene. They can be reused multiple times (if properly handled) and are more and more often designed for easy recycling at the end of their life cycle. You can read more about FIBCs and sustainability here.

  • While drums are also often recyclable, the energy and resources needed to recycle steel or clean plastic drums for reuse is significant, which makes the process less sustainable.
  • When pallet boxes are made from wood, plastic, or metal, they are generally considered to be less eco-friendly, especially if the specific materials that are not easily recyclable or sourced from non-sustainable forest management practices.

Product safety

FIBCs are manufactured in a way that ensures safety and hygiene, especially when used to transport food products or hazardous materials. They can be custom-made with various liners and coatings to prevent contamination, moisture ingress, and damage from external elements.

  • Drums have a strong track record for transporting liquids and hazardous materials but can pose risks if not properly sealed or if they corrode over time, so keep the conditions they’re in into account.
  • Pallet boxes offer sturdy protection, but may not provide optimal sealing from contaminants without additional modifications.


FIBCs are very, very versatile. They can be tailored to work for a wide range of applications, from pharmaceuticals to chemicals and even Modified Atmosphere Packaging. You can add features like lift loops, discharge spouts, and fill ports to make them adaptable to your specific industrial needs.

  • Drums’ cylindrical shape limits modification options. That’s why they are mostly used for liquids or hazardous materials that require rigid containment.
  • For pallet boxes, customization is possible but it can be expensive, and the rigid structure limits the types of modifications that can be made.

Who’s the winner?

We’ll give you the usual answer: it depends on your needs. That being said, FIBCs often provide a more cost-effective, efficient, and sustainable option for businesses that need flexible, safe, and eco-friendly bulk packaging solutions. If you’re thinking about making the switch to FIBCs, contact our team to find the perfect packaging solution for your product.


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