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Understanding the Differences for Hazardous Waste Shipping

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The safe transportation and packaging of hazardous waste materials require an understanding of the different shipping and packaging methods available and the applicable laws to ensure that your operation complies. The two primary methods of transporting hazardous materials are salvage packaging and overpacks. 

The trend of manufacturers using overpack to refer to salvage packaging, such as salvage drums and cylinders, has led to widespread confusion regarding the definitions of these terms. As a business owner, it’s critical to understand the differences between salvage packaging versus overpacks for your shipments. 

What Is Salvage Packaging?

Salvage packaging is designed to safely transport leaking, damaged, defective or non-compliant packages or goods containing hazardous materials for recovery or disposal. Salvage packaging consists of the following:

Salvage Drums

Salvage drums are visually similar to oil drums or barrels and are available in various materials, such as steel, polyethylene and aluminum. For a storage drum to be UN/DOT-compliant, it must be tested according to UN standards for solids and liquids (UN 1A2, 1B2, 1N2, or 1H2). In addition, it must pass a leakproofness test of 3-PSIG (pounds per square inch gauge). The storage drum must not have a capacity exceeding 119 gallons (450 liters).

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Salvage Drum Requirements

These are the requirements for a salvage drum:

  • A maximum capacity of 119 gallons (450 L)
  • A removable head
  • Compatible with the lading
  • Meets DOT specifications with applicable UN markings
  • Absorbent and cushioning material compatible with the hazardous material

Each salvage packaging must be marked, according to the regulation, with the following information:

  • The proper shipping name of the hazardous material inside the packaging
  • The name and address of the consignee
  • All applicable hazmat labels

In addition, you must ensure that the packaging is marked with the word “SALVAGE” in letters ½” in height.

Shop Our Range of DOT-Compliant Hazardous Materials Labels and Placards

What Is an Overpack?

An overpack is an enclosure that a single consignor uses to provide protection or convenience in handling a package or consolidating two or more packages. Unlike a salvage drum or cylinder, an overpack is designed to transport packages that have not been breached or damaged — i.e., packages that are not leaking or compromised. The packages contained in an overpack still meet Department of Transportation requirements. 

Overpack Requirements

The requirements that an overpack must meet, according to the law, are as follows:

  • Is marked with the proper shipping name and identification number.
  • Is labeled for each hazardous material contained therein unless markings are visible through the overpack.
  • If orientation markings are required, they must consist of arrows on opposite vertical sides with the arrows pointing in the direction of orientation.
  • If the type of package contained inside the overpack isn’t visible from the outside, the overpack must be marked with the word “Overpack.”
  • The lettering for an overpack must be at least ½” in height.

Basic Comparison of Salvage Packaging vs. Overpacks 

One of the most crucial differences between the two systems is that salvage drums are designed for transporting damaged or leaking hazardous materials, whereas what you transport in an overpack must be intact. While salvage drums are limited in capacity, overpacks are not. If you use a salvage drum, the hazardous materials contained therein must be sent to a disposal facility, whereas there are no limitations on the intended uses for overpacks. DOT specification packaging is required with salvage drums but not with overpacks.

Manufacturer/Distributor Liability

If you are a manufacturer or distributor of overpacks, you should only sell products that meet specific regulatory requirements. The Department of Transportation does expect manufacturers to adhere to a specific set of standards when designing, manufacturing and marking UN/DOT-compliant products.

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Shipping Containers & Totes

Whether you need to transport hazardous or non-hazardous materials, Air Sea Containers supplies custom shipping boxes. When ordering custom boxes, the specifications determine expected lead times. The minimum quantity is 500 units, and boxes suitable for hazmat need DOT/UN testing and approval. 

In addition, we offer food-grade high-density polyethylene 275-gallon totes for sale, allowing you to store liquids for transport. These totes rest on a steel/composite pallet with black plastic corner supports and feature a cylinder valve with a foil-sealed outlet Viton gasket.

Check Out Our Vermiculite Products – Absorbent and Cushioning Packing Material

Find Everything You Need for Safe Transport

At Air Sea Containers, we have everything you need to transport hazardous and non-hazardous materials, from cardboard boxes to steel salvage drums. Among our many packaging options, we carry hazmat boxes, including UN-certified 4GV Boxes, Oxygen Generator and Oxygen Compressed Boxes and Lithium Battery Kits. 


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