Bags and storage containers

A good range of plastic bags and other containers is essential both for the collection of habitat samples or inidividual specimens in the field and for the storage of voucher specimens.

Plastic bags

Widely available in a very large range of sizes and thicknesses; a limited range available (usually rather expensively) from supermarkets and kitchen supplies shops.  Self-sealing ("zip-lock") bags are useful; some bags have white panels which are easier to write on.  Remember that polythene degrades rapidly on exposure to UV light:  if you expose polythene bags to direct sunlight, they are likely to start to become brittle within a few months.  It is important to exclude light if you use polythene bags for longer-term storage.     

  • Polybags Ltd. Lyon Way, GREENFORD, Middlesex UB6 OAQ; Tel. 0208 575 8200; wide range of polythene bags, including self-sealing. A minimum order of 1,000 of any one size.
  • Alana Ecology Ltd., New Street, Bishop's Castle, Shropshire  SY9 5DQ, UK.
    Tel: 01588 630 173.  

Containers (see also below, containers for small shells)

A  range of materials (glass, different plastic, card) are available, in a huge range of sizes. Glass is probably best avoided in the field in case it breaks, but very stable in laboratory use.  Plastics are very varied: some are transparent (but often scratch easily); others are opaque; some are brittle while others are tough.  Think particularly about the suitability of plastic containers for longer-term storage, either because the plastic may break down, or because chemicals from a plastic may affect shells.  PET is probably better for longer-term storage than polythene and plastics that contain plasticisers.  Think also about whether you need containers to be waterproof.   Be cautious about wood boxes and cabinets: many kinds of wood (oak, for instance, or MDF) produce acids which may damage shells.  

  • Azpack Ltd., Unit 12 Kernan Drive, Swingbridge Trading Estate, Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE11 5JF, UK.  Tel: 01509 261 256.  Plastic boxes.
  • The Bag’N Box Man Ltd., Unit 1, West Street, Shutford, Banbury, OX15 6PH.  Tel: 01295 788 522.  Card boxes and boxes with transparent PVC lids.
  • Camlab Ltd., Norman Way Industrial Estate, Over, Cambridge CB4 5WE, UK.  Tel: 01954 233 100. ,  Wide range of tubes and vials. 
  • Gard Plasticases Ltd., The Arnold Business Park, Branbridges Rd., East Peckham, Tonbridge, Kent  TN12 5LG, UK.  Tel: 01622 871 887. Plastic tubes and and boxes: especially Bock range (used to be stocked by Daco).  Won’t sell small numbers.
  • D. J. & D Henshaw, 34 Rounton Road, Waltham Abbey, Essex EN9 3AR, UK.  Tel: 01992 717 663.  Small display boxes and tubes etc.  
  • Henleys Medical Supplies Ltd., Brownfields, Welwyn Garden City, Herts AL7 1AN, UK.  Tel: 01707 333 164.  Plastic tubs, boxes and tubes.  More expensive, limited range, but available in smaller quantities.  
  • Lilytone Ltd, 74 Laneside Road, New Mills, High Peak, SK22 4LX, UK.  Clear plastic boxes, wide range.
  • Really Useful Products.   
    Plastic boxes, sturdy, medium to large sizes; long-lasting (PET), reasonably priced; direct web order, will accept small orders.
  • Stewart Plastics Ltd, Stewart House, Waddon Marsh Way, Purley Way, Croydon, Surrey CR9 4HS, UK.  Tel: 0208 603 5700. Plastic boxes: very wide range.
  • Solmedia Laboratory Suppliers, 6 The Parade, Colchester Road, Romford, Essex RM3 0AQ, UK.  Tel: 01708 343 334. ;
    General range of laboratory equipment, including  glass and plastic tubes.  No minimum order.
  • Transparent Box Company, 22 Back Lane, Stonesby, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, LE14 4PT, UK. Tel: 01664 464 227.
    Card boxes and trays; plastic boxes.  Won’t take small orders.  

Containers for tiny shells

Cavity slides are a very good but slightly expensive way of storing and retaining very small specimens. The best supplier is:

  • Biotec Microslides, Little Lower Ease, Cuckfield Road, ANSTY, West Sussex RH17 5AL, England. Tel. 01444 452282.

A cheaper alternative is to use gelatine capsules, though care needs to be taken to make sure that they do not get damp: