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Die Vorteiler des Tankcontainers

The advantages of tank containers compared to flexibags in the transport of hazardous liquids

For the safe and efficient transport of liquids in dangerous goods logistics, logistics companies must take into account a wide variety of requirements for “ideal transport conditions”. Tank containers and flexibags play a major role here. How do these two alternatives actually differ? This article attempts to bring clarity to an often confusing discussion.

Tank containers are closed, robust containers made of high-quality stainless steel and offer a high level of protection and great safety against external influences, against leakage and contamination. They can be used to transport a wide variety of liquids, including toxic chemicals, sensitive food ingredients and pharmaceutical products.

In contrast, flexibags are flexible plastic containers that are placed inside conventional freight containers. They are limited exclusively to the transport of non-hazardous liquids.

Due to the use of standard containers, transport costs are often lower with Flexibags, which makes this transport solution interesting. Not to be underestimated, however, are possible additional costs for recycling and the use of heating pads. In the latter case, additional linings are needed to the multilayer packaging.

Differences between tank container and flexbag in the loading process

Another difference arises when loading and unloading are considered. In the case of the tank container, this is done through specialized connections and equipment available at the respective loading and unloading points. The resulting rapid loading and unloading of tank containers leads to short downtimes in an efficient supply chain.

For flexibags, these operations require more elaborate preparation and careful handling. This is significantly more time-consuming.

A flexibag on the transport surface of a truck. © Kefa01 - Own work, CC BY 3.0

The tank container is the more sustainable transport method compared to the flexibag

In terms of sustainability, flexibags are always promoted as more environmentally friendly. However, ITCO has clearly taken a different position in a statement dated 17.06.2022 and has also supported this with facts. The “ITCO Flexibag Statement – Tank Containers are Eco-friendly and Sustainable” states that flexibagsareneither eco-friendly nor sustainable because they are made from plastic films, consisting of polyethylene and a polypropylene shell. With a total weight of approximately 40kg, one Flexibag is equivalent to more than 7,500 disposable shopping bags. To avoid cross-contamination, such flexibags can also be used only once.

And the fact that they do not have to be cleaned after use like ISO tank containers is not true either – at least not as a general rule: depending on the cargo, e.g. after use with petroleum products, cleaning is mandatory before disposal. And even the often positively mentioned recycling is only possible to a limited extent with plastic films. If anything, it is costly and therefore often not economical. In addition, there are no uniform rules or controls for the disposal of flexibags. Rather, this is the responsibility of the recipient.

Tank containers are cleaned in approved and specialized depots. It is true that cleaning tank containers is resource and energy intensive. But the tank container is reusable and has a very long life of about 20-30 years. Due to safely established metal recovery processes, a tank container can be recycled up to 90% even after this time. All in all, the tank container is clearly the more sustainable alternative to the Flexibag.

A typical tank container. © Torsten @ stock.adobe.com

In most cases tank containers are superior to flexibags

Both tank containers and flexibags offer solutions for bulk liquids. What is the best method of transportation depends on the specific requirements. Flexibags can be quite useful for certain constellations. In principle, however, tank containers offer a number of advantages. In terms of safety, efficiency, versatility, efficiency, but especially environmental friendliness, they are the more reliable and significantly more sustainable solution.

Illustrations: Leschaco; Torsten @ stock.adobe.com; Kefa01 – Own work, CC BY 3.0

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