Until now, most used the traditional screw-in plug or "bung in a drum" to secure and dispense liquids. Engineers at MicroMatic USA Inc., Northridge, Calif., and molding supplier Minnesota Rubber QMR Plastic, Minneapolis (www.mnrubber.com), designed a replacement they call the Economic Plastic Valve (EPV). It serves three functions: provides security during transit and storage; dispenses liquids and reseals before disconnecting; and prevents accidental spills, tampering, and improves worker safety.

The valve and coupler are molded out of chemically resistant high-density polyethylene, which is recyclable. The valve has three parts and five rubber-molded seals. The coupler is made of six parts and also has five rubber seals. The valve and coupler are color coded and keyed so that a red valve only fits in a red coupler, a blue valve only in a blue coupler, and so on through a total of 12 colors.

The valve screws into the drum opening, and a coupler inserts into the valve to act as a dispenser. The coupler rotates 360° and has a 1.25-in.-long outlet port with a threaded nozzle, so it can easily connect to machines. The EPV meets United Nations Level II testing and is said to be so inexpensive it can be disposed of and recycled when the plastic drum is empty. The valve handles most commodity liquids over a wide temperature range.