Do you ever wonder how goods get from their place of origin to your home? It obviously isn’t magic, and we also haven’t managed to figure out teleportation technology just yet. In other words, these products need to be physically transported. While traveling via ship seems like a relic of the past (unless you’re on a cruise), shipping via the seas is still common and often necessary for getting goods from one continent to another. In fact, 95% of all cargo is transferred via ship.
These commercial ships are usually massive and can carry immense weight, making them the perfect vessels for carrying several goods at once. These goods are safely held by shipping containers (typically steel shipping containers). On average a ship can carry about 3,500 shipping containers. Today it’s estimated that 17 million of these containers are in circulation around the world, with 5 million or so being active.
So with all of these goods in all of these containers, what happens with all of it? The goods, of course, are dropped off and sold to whichever port is their destination. But the containers themselves may have a few different fates. For one thing, each year about 675 of these containers are lost at sea, some carrying goods, others empty. This is both wasteful and potentially harmful to the ocean’s ecosystems, but sometimes it’s unavoidable due to rough seas and weather. Other containers, especially if they’re damaged, are simply left and forgotten about, simply to be eroded and rusted, harming the environment.
But there are far better fates for these containers, thanks to human ambition and ingenuity. Here are three ways shipping containers can be used and reused after fulfilling their initial purpose.
1) Keep on Shipping
The first and most obvious way to recycle shipping containers is to keep using them until their no longer structurally sound. If treated with proper care and maintenance, these containers can last up to 20 years. If a shipment drops off goods, chances are there are goods to be picked up as well. The best option to transport these items back is to simply use a shipping container that was just emptied. By recycling containers for many years in this way, these containers serve a purpose for much longer than they sometimes get credit for.
2) People Buy Used Storage Containers
Why would anyone buy used storage containers? In an increasingly environmentally-conscious world, the best answer to this question is that reusing storage containers can cut down on waste. But if we’re speaking honestly, very few people out there would spend the money to buy used storage containers just to protect the environment. In other words, there has to be an economic incentive to buying them as well. Indeed, there are quite a few reasons to buy used storage containers.
The first reason is resale value. There are shipping container auctions where people can bid on these containers to either use themselves or sell for a higher price at a later date. These containers can be resold to manufacturers, individuals, and companies who need the raw materials within them. The other reason people buy used storage containers is even more creative and incredibly useful.
3) Transforming After Transporting
Because shipping containers are so large, sturdy, and well-built, it turns out they can be used for things other than just shipping. Some creative ways people have turned storage containers into something else can be seen in portable offices or concession stands made of shipping containers! Even homes and campers can be constructed using shipping materials. Using a standard shipping container for these purposes reuses about 3,500 kg of steel, an incredible amount of material that is already held together and ready for use.
There is really no limit to the ways shipping containers can be repurposed. Rather than sit, rust, and collect dust, these giant containers can find new life after living out their initial usefulness. There is perhaps no better or creative way of actively recycling than turning what used to just be a vessel into a place where people can work, do business, and live.