What’s the difference between UN-approved and non-UN-approved IBCs?

Intermediate bulk containers (IBCs) are one of the most practical solutions for transporting and storing liquids, chemicals, fluids and semi-solids, but you should use the right type for your needs.

If you’re transporting harmful, dangerous, or hazardous materials, you must ensure your IBCs are compliant.

The first thing you need to understand when purchasing IBCs is the difference between UN-approved and non-UN-approved containers.

What is a UN Approval Certificate?

IBCs with UN approval certification meet specific criteria set by the United Nations for the safe transportation of hazardous and non-hazardous materials. To gain UN approval, IBCs must adhere to specific design, construction, material, and performance standards.

Design and construction: UN-approved IBCs are designed with a focus on stability, strength, and durability. They are made to specific dimensions to enable safe stacking, reducing the risk of tipping during transportation.

Material compatibility and regulations: UN-approved IBCs are made with materials that do not react adversely with the contents and comply with international regulations such as the UN recommendations on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

Testing and Certification: To gain UN approval certification, IBCs undergo rigorous testing to ensure they can withstand various challenges.

The tests may vary depending on the specific regulations and standards in the country where the IBC will be used but typically include the following:

  • Drop tests
  • Stack tests,
  • Leakproof tests
  • Hydraulic or hydrostatic pressure tests
  • Bottom and top lifting tests
  • Vibration tests
  • Fire and combustion tests
  • Permeation tests

Once an IBC is approved, it will display a marking indicating its UN test rating and packaging group.

When should you use UN-approved IBCs?

A UN approval certificate approves an IBC for storing and transporting potentially harmful liquids. Liquids that can be stored include acetic acids, hydrocarbon mixtures, or 55% nitric acid.

Transport of hazardous goods on public roads, inland waterways, and rail is only permitted in IBC containers with UN approval.

If you plan to store potentially harmful liquids, you must ensure that your IBC is UN-approved. You could be fined if you knowingly use an IBC that isn’t UN-approved.

Certain chemicals need to be stored in IBCs that are both UN-approved and anti-static. An anti-static IBC will reduce the static electricity build-up, lowering the flashpoint and making it safer to transport.

Make sure you choose an IBC suitable for the product you want to store or transport. The lifespan of an approved IBC is five years, but you should stop using it if you notice any damage.

Are non-UN-approved IBCs safe to use?

While hazardous materials must be transported in UN-approved IBCs, some products can be stored in non-UN-approved containers.

Non-approved IBCs are still safe to use – they just haven’t been subjected to the same rigorous testing as UN-approved IBCs. This means there may be some restrictions – you might be unable to stack as high, for example.

However, if you do not specifically require UN-approved IBCs, using non-approved can be more cost-effective.

How C.O’Donovan can help

Although we don’t conduct periodic inspections of UN-approved IBCs, we offer a comprehensive laundering service. Regular cleaning and inspections of your IBCs will help maintain integrity and extend the lifespan.

Our laundering process includes an internal and external inspection to check for any obvious signs of damage. We’ll also pressure test your containers to check for leaks.

Your IBCs will be returned to you fully cleaned, with tamper seals, and quality assurance labels.

We offer a nationwide collect and return service to provide an all-in-one, hassle-free service.

And if you no longer require your IBCs or they are no longer usable, we can recondition or recycle them. Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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