In the past it was common for granular raw materials to be supplied to site in large sacks. These sacks, weighing either 25kg or 50kg, were manually packed and stacked on a pallet. The recipient would then empty the sack in what was traditionally known as a ‘rip and tip’ operation.
In the late 1980s this process was gradually replaced by people preferring to use semi-bulk packaging in the form of large versatile polypropylene bags, known today as bulk bags. This was the beginning of the decline of the use of the sack—whether made of paper, polythene or PP—in first world countries.
So why did people prefer to switch to bulk bags?
The team at Cliffe Packaging has put together three reasons why bulk bags are better than traditional sacks.
1. Compliance with Health & Safety rules
The process of handling heavy sacks weighing 25kg to 50kg has its own hazards. Repetitive strain injury and back strain were among the issues with which operators had to contend. Pneumatic handlers could be used to some success, but generally the practice of handling heavy sacks was deemed unsafe by Health and Safety Executives. Various changes to legislation followed, restricting weights that could be carried.
2. Cost savings
Filling and handling sacks is time consuming. On top of this, it is not cost effective, considering the total amount of packaging used. To store the entire contents of a load, just one bulk bag could replace the need for a pallet of sacks, which could mean savings of more than 30%!
Below is a simple calculation illustrating the cost savings on packaging materials alone.
Product to be bagged: 1,000kg of recycled plastic granules
Using 25kg sacks: 40 × 25kg sacks, each costing £0.30, for a total of £12.00.
Using 1,000kg bulk bag: 1 × 1,000kg bulk bag, each costing £7.50.
Cost savings for packaging materials alone = £4.50
Plus there are savings with reduced labour costs for both the filler and user.
3. Environmentally efficient
Switching from sacks to bulk bags significantly reduces waste, and that is a fact. If the semi-bulk packaging is reusable, then the savings in cost and to the environment doubles with every trip. Sacks, on the other hand, are not designed to be reusable.
In many cases, especially with export markets to third world countries, the use for sacks remains. Where manual-handling equipment is not available—or indeed appropriate—the 25kg sack will still have its place, such as at garden centres for sand and gravel. However for bulk commodity products, semi-bulk packaging remains the packaging method of choice. For efficiency in time and labour, the Cliffe Packaging team believes that the bulk bag is unmatched.