Best Practices for Extending the Life of Collapsible Containers

    Collapsible bulk containers are a versatile and durable choice for fast-paced manufacturing environments. However, over time, especially if mishandled, containers can break. Broken containers are more than an annoyance; they can cause employee injury, production delays, product loss and cost your company money. While breakage is inevitable, proper handling of your containers will help minimize breakage. In this article, I outline some best practices you can implement today to help extend the life of your containers and help you get the best return on your returnable container investment.

    Best Practices for Extending the Life of Collapsible Containers

    I started my returnable container career on the shop floor repairing broken collapsible containers. During my time in the shop, thousands of broken containers of many sizes, brands, and styles came across my workbench. Despite a seemingly endless variety of containers coming from many companies across different industries, the damage I encountered was most often very similar and preventable.

    After a couple of years in the shop, I moved into sales and started meeting with customers to learn about their returnable container needs and struggles. It was clear that some companies did better than others managing the health of their returnable container fleet. The following best practices come from my time in the shop and over a decade of working with many large users of collapsible containers.

    1. Have clear quality & safety standards in place

    Develop clear quality and safety guidelines. These guidelines should be in writing and made available to all employees who will be handling containers. This will ensure all parties are aware of your company’s expectations, creates accountability, and will help with training of employees. If you are new to collapsible containers and want help developing guidelines, Container Essentials will be happy to assist.

    2. Ensure containers are free of debris or product before collapsing

    Even a small amount of trash can cause the hinges or walls to break, making the container unsafe to use. One of the most common causes of hinge breakage is corrugated layer pads being left in the containers.

    3. Ensure containers are aligned properly when stacking

    When stacked properly containers lock in to place, and the load is evenly distributed along the four corners of the containers. An improperly aligned container can place too much pressure on one area of the container below causing it to break. Improperly aligned containers also make the whole stack unsteady, increasing the chances of the stack tipping over.

    4. Do not overload containers

    Never exceed the recommended weight capacity. Overloaded containers will wear out faster, break easier, are prone to wall failure, and are more likely to tip over when moved. As a guide, most of our new Cobra collapsible containers are rated for 2,000 pounds. The weight capacity of used collapsible containers can be different depending on the size, style, or brand you purchase. Whether purchasing new or used, Container Essentials will help you know the weight capacity of the containers you receive.

    Not all loads are created equal. Most collapsible containers are not recommended for storage or transportation of plastic pellets, powders, or regrind, even if the total load is under the recommended weight capacity. These products act like liquids and put outward pressure on the walls causing them to bow and possibly fail. If you need a bulk container to store pellets, powders, or regrind, we can help you choose the fixed wall bulk container that best fits your application.

    5. Perform a quick inspection before each use

    It is better to discover a container is broken before it is filled. An inspection taking less than 30 seconds can save the labor needed to repack a broken bin. Removing containers from service at the first sign of damage increases the chances of them being repairable. Look for these common issues & problem areas.


    Do a quick check of the hinges that attach the walls to the base. A few broken hinges may not be a safety hazard, but if the end hinges are broken or the wall doesn’t stay in place when being opened, pull the container out of service.


    Make sure latches engage and disengage properly, and both teeth of the latch are intact. Also, make sure the pockets on the receiving walls are intact and free of debris which can cause latches to break or not engage properly.


    Open and close the hatch once to make sure it is working properly. A hatch with broken or missing hinges is a common cause of injuries, as the hatch can pop out when the operator tries to open it.

    Fork Straps / Base Runners

    Broken or missing runners can cause a safety issue. Some company’s safety guidelines allow for some missing runners, and others don’t. If your containers are used in a fast-paced environment where forklifts run at high speeds, then having all runners in place is a good idea. If your containers are mostly used with pallet jacks, then some missing runners may not be an issue. Sit down with your team and discuss the runner criteria that works best for your company.


    Containers will develop cracks over time. Small cracks are not always an issue, but small cracks can become larger cracks, making containers unsafe to use.

    Pay special attention to these common problem areas where large cracks tend to develop.

    • Top corners of receiving walls. (The walls without the latches)
    • Along the bottom edge of the base just above the fork pockets where the fork tines enter the bin.
    • The base corners where the two directions meet.

    6. Proper forklift handling

    There is no faster way to destroy a collapsible container than with a forklift. Containers can be torn in half from a forklift impact.

    • Fork tines should be tilted down slightly and about two inches off the floor to clear the fork straps.
    • Slow down and make sure tines are aligned properly when entering containers.
    • Never push the outside of a container with the edge of fork tines, especially when loaded with material or in a trailer.
    • Always tilt fork tines up when moving container, so the container stack rests against the mast of the forklift.
    • Be mindful of fork tine width as the fork pocket openings can be narrower than standard tine width, especially on 32x30 footprint containers.

    We hope you find these best practices helpful. If you currently have broken containers in your system, Container Essentials can help. We offer bulk container repair or recycling and allow you to apply the scrap value towards the purchase of any product we offer.

    Contact us today and let us know how we can help.

    Posted by Aaron Goulet

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