Water resistant coatings for fibre drums

Fibrestar is the largest supplier of fibre drums in the UK, and deliver their high-quality industrial packaging solutions across the globe. Fibre drums are a versatile and durable packaging alternative to plastic and steel, with the added benefits of being lightweight, customisable, and re-usable, they are the latest in cost-effective and environmentally friendly packaging. Fibrestar have been making fibre drums since 1949, largely supplying the chemical, pharmaceutical and wire sectors.

The company had the opportunity to expand the use for their fibre drums to the agriculture sector, where the biodegradability of their drums is a huge asset, however, their original fibre pails are not waterproof. They came to the SMI Hub for advice on biodegradable waterproofing solutions, following initial conversations at the “Product Design with More Sustainable use of Plastics” workshop presented by the SMI Hub, Innovate UK Edge and the Business Growth Hub in July 2021.

Following virtual meetings and a Fibrestar site visit from Industrial Liaison Officer, Hannah Baron and Research Fellow, Dr Thomas Bennett, the Hub prepared an extensive report, providing a broad overview of the technologies that could act as waterproof barriers for the fibre drums, alongside examples of suppliers and their suitable products. Each option included a breakdown of its potential sustainability challenges, and the document closed with a series of recommendations, and suggestions of next steps for the company.

“The site visit was extremely helpful, as it allowed us to clearly explain the Fibrestar product, the development we’ve already been through, our machinery, and our business strategy for the development of this new container. We’re keen to stay in touch regarding new materials or material development suited to the product that may become available.”

Colin Pardoe, Director, Fibrestar Drums ltd.

Next steps

The SMI Hub report made Fibrestar aware of several new waterproof coating technologies that should be compatible for use with fibre drums, and the associated manufacturers and suppliers. Fibrestar have since reached out to a new manufacturer and are working with them to optimise a coating with suitable properties. Several other promising coating technologies are being held in reserve pending the results of initial trials.

The new conical fibre pail with either liquid retention capabilities or a waterproof lining should be ready for scale up production by Q3/Q4 2022.

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