Drums and Containers

What exactly is a drum or barrel?

drums_containers_1A drum is a cylindrical container used for shipping bulk cargo. Drums can be made of steel, dense paperboard (commonly called a fiber drum), or plastics, and are generally used for the transportation and storage of liquids and powders. Drums are often certified for shipment of dangerous goods. The construction of drum needs to meet applicable regulations and is usually matched for compatibility with the specific product shipped. Drums are also called barrels in common usage.

There are many different types of drums and barrels that vary based on size, and what it is made of.


Drum Types and Sizes

Here are some different types of drums and barrels.

There are poly drums which are made of plastic and are more lightweight than the steel drums, the poly drums come in a variety of sizes of 85 gallons down to a 5 gallon bucket.

They also come with different drumheads, whether you want tight head drum (the lid is permanently sealed), or an open head drum(the lid is removable).

Then there are the steel drums, and those come in a few different kinds as well. Depending on what your storing inside of these drums you may need a stainless steel drum, a steel drum, or a reconditioned steel drum. Along with the poly drums these drums and barrels come in a variety of sizes from 55 gallons all the way down to 5 gallon buckets. There are also two kinds of tops, open head ( with a removable top) and tight head ( sealed off top)

There are also specialty sizes that can accommodate differing needs. Of note is the overpack drum, an off size drum that is poly or steel utilized to overpack leaking containers of smaller size. These drums are utilized frequently in the environmental service industry for older drums of hazardous waste.

We can also provide poly totes that come primarily in 275 and 330 gallon sizes.

Specialty container materials are also. This includes higher density polyethylene, stainless steel and a wide variety of combined liners, etc.

Common types/sizes of containers;



5 Gallon Steel
16 Gallon Steel – Reconditioned
30 Gallon Stainless Steel
55 Gallon Poly
275 Gallon Fiber
330 Gallon


Container Uses

There are many uses for these containers. Whether you are storing contaminated soil in them, or are needing them for a labpack. Even though drums and barrels are a safe way to store your hazardous waste and chemicals the utmost caution must still be taken. For example when storing chemicals within a drum or barrel one must be certain that the chemical being stored will not react with the drum or barrel’s composition.

Waste containerization is a bit trickier in that you may not fully understand all the characteristics of what is in the waste stream. In order to do that you must do comprehensive, waste characterization

Through waste characterization, you learn, among other concerns, if a waste is reactive or incompatible with other wastes.

Before putting wastes into a container it is necessary to identify and segregate wastes if they are incompatible and/or reactive. This is important!!Incompatible and/or reactive hazardous wastes must be stored in a manner to prevent fires or explosions.


TIPS for Safely Putting Wastes in Containers

  1. Make sure you know which wastes are reactive and/or incompatible. Keep these wastes away from each other. Put them in separate containers.
  1. Make sure the container cannot be harmed by the waste.
  1. If you rinse out containers onsite, be aware that rinse water generated from drum washing must be contained and characterized prior to disposal.
  1. If you frequently reuse containers, consider “assigning” wastes to certain containers. This will allow you to reuse the container without washing.
  1. Use a funnel to prevent spills, and do not use the same funnel for all wastes.
  1. Certain chemicals may need room for expansion, or they may require zero headspace depending on the characteristics of the waste and storage conditions (e.g., temperature fluctuations)


DOT Specifications

A container may need to be DOT approved for your particular need. All containers that are utilized to ship DOT regulated material must be shipped in a DOT specified container. Below is an example of a DOT specification.



What can Mantis do for you?

Mantis Environmental can help guide you on the appropriate drum choice and features for any job that it may be required. Whether your removing liquids from a 500 gallon waste tank or storing a 250mL container of mercury, Mantis has the container for you.

We can also offer guidance on what can and cannot be placed into certain drums, and what it may react with. This not only protects our customer, but it prevents an accident or a spill to occur in an untimely time or manner.