While steel barrels and fiber drums are also commonly used, plastic barrels are often preferred due to the durability of the material and because plastic is not susceptible to corrosion and is therefore able to be used for long term storage without concerns of product contamination.
Typically plastics like nylon and polyvinyl chloride are used to fabricate plastic drums or barrels. These plastics are able to endure a fair amount of internal pressure as well as some of the inevitable wear and tear that results from transportation processes. Especially for shipping purposes, industrial drums are required to meet certain standards, and plastic drums are no exception.
Testing may include drop tests, leak proof tests and weight capacity tests. Barrels are usually constructed according to standards sizes for ease of processing using generic drum handling equipment including tumblers and stackers. However, as with most plastic products, there is room for customization and drums are able to be designed and constructed according to specific requirements in terms of diameters, heights and weight capacities.
While plastic drums are used in industries such as food processing, chemical, beverage and consumer goods, steel drums are typically used for transporting radioactive, flammable or otherwise hazardous waste materials.
Plastic barrels are used to transport all sorts of liquids and are often preferred to steel because they do not rust. Plastics such as nylon, polystyrene, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are specifically used to transport caustic and acidic materials. However, in transporting radioactive, flammable, or otherwise hazardous waste, steel drums are required instead.
Plastic is more susceptible to damage from hazardous waste materials and therefore a more durable material is required for the transportation of those. Plastic barrels are very sturdy, and if needs be can be further reinforced with steel rims to ensure the structure does not collapse under pressure. Tamper proof or security seals can be placed around the opening of drums to ensure the integrity of the contained products.
While not as light as paperboard, plastic is still lighter than steel and therefore also helps to save costs on the price of shipping, especially over long distances. Extra features which can be adjusted include a closure lock of sorts, and a choice of lid material. Non-industrial uses for plastic barrels include water barrels for collecting rainwater, floating components for water docks and as garden composters.