Packaging Waste: Drums & Totes

packaging waste, drums and totes

In last month’s blog, I discussed pallets, knockdowns and other rigid plastics that are part of the industrial and manufacturing packaging waste stream.

This month I’ll dive into drums and totes and some of the flexible plastics that are often part of the packaging waste stream.

Drums and Totes

There are many varieties and sizes, but for this discussion, I’ll address steel and poly (HDPE) drums: fiber drums and intermediate bulk containers, also known as IBC totes. Let’s begin with drums and totes, since they have both a scrap value AND a reuse value. Since both have a scrap value, i.e., steel and HDPE, both can be shredded and scrapped for a small return, usually a few pennies per pound. However, these same containers can turn into significant revenue sources when they are reconditioned and reused for their original purpose.

A few things to keep in mind. First, the containers must be undamaged – no dings, cracks or dents. Second, they must be almost completely empty of any residual liquids. Having the MSDS available for the original contents is a big plus, too. Companies that clean and refurbish drums and IBC totes for resale like to know what was in them. Keep in mind that transportation is a key component, so be sure that you have as close to 60 IBC totes as possible and anywhere from 240 to 300 drums.

Fiber Drums, in various sizes, are usually non-reusable and are also considered packaging waste. If you check with your cardboard recycler, many will take them at little to no charge, helping reduce your landfill costs and creating more benefits for your waste diversion/recycling/ESG/sustainability metrics.

cumberland recycling drums and totes
Drums & totes used for recycling

Flexibles: Plastics / Films

While there are many forms of flexible packaging, I will address the three largest here:

●  Bags and liners (LDPE) and stretch film (LLDE).

●  Supersacks, which are polypropylene.

●  Strapping, which is typically either Nylon (black or white) or PET (translucent green).

Recycling films can be a challenge due to their light weight and the amount of space they take up while waiting to be baled or processed. So, the first order of business is to determine the financial viability of each stream by conducting an audit to establish the weight of each that is generated and then figure out where you’re going to collect and process your recycling. Due to the light weight of flexibles, access to a baler is necessary for bags and sacks. A Sweed brand chopper will make managing strapping far simpler and cost-effective.

Single product trailer-loads are always preferable so that you can maximize value by going to the mill or processor. But if storage space is an issue, you may be able to combine your flexibles with other recycling in what’s known as “combo loads”. If your recycler doesn’t offer this, you may want to consider a new or a second services provider.

Please let us know what’s working and what’s not in your world of recycling and waste management. We hope this blog on packaging waste provided a little more insight, and we’d love to hear from you! Contact us at and let us know.

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