Making Use of Old Shipping Containers


Most industries today are in need of transportation logistics, and this includes the right containers, vehicles, and stuffing to move items around the world, big and small, edible and not. Trade show shipping containers, for example, may be plastic or metal, and these trade show shipping containers are used to deliver kiosks, banners, tables, and more to a trade show. A trade show is a physical place, where online and TV ads are put aside in favor of display stands with people present. Those people aren’t expected to bring a kiosk in their car, though; a hired trucking company with trade show shipping containers on hand will take care of that.

It goes well beyond trade shows. Most shipping around the world today is done by ship, large sea-going vessels who may be loaded with thousands of shipping containers made of steel. Many millions of these shipping containers can be found around the world, and while they have important work to do, many are retired and simply languish in storage. But that’s a waste of metal, many would agree, and these old shipping containers and some steel trade show shipping containers can be put to better use than that. Forward-thinking engineers have developed the idea of shipping crate restaurants and other pop up container bars and even shipping container cafes. Customized shipping containers can be made into resource-friendly and small, but comfortable, buildings like these. How can it be done?

On Shipping Containers

Are there enough shipping containers available for making pop up cafes and restaurants out of them? The answer is yes, even with millions of these containers still in active use in the world’s trade routes. It is estimated that if every shipping container were laid end to end, that line could circle the entire Earth twice. It is believed that around 17 million of them are being used today, and many are circulating the Earth’s ocean trade routes. Nearly five million are in use, and they make some 200 million trips every single year. But that means that more than two in three are not in use, and those leftover steel boxes are sitting around, not doing any good to anyone. Overall, these steel boxes have a lifetime of 25 years and require little maintenance, but they don’t have to be set aside for long.

Creative innovators have realized that these steel boxes are a vast resource waiting to be tapped, and around 11-12 million of these containers are available. Just one of them has some 5,000 kilograms of steel, which is quite a bit. After all, today’s steel industry is enormous, and steel is known for being recycled as much as 90% of the time. Steel is one of the world’s best-recycled resources, and this can apply to old shipping containers, too. Each one can be either repurposed into a small building or simply melted down for their steel. Most of these containers are eight feet wide, nine and a half tall, and range in length from 20 to 40 feet. They are generously large, and can be just as easily melted down for a lot of steel or turned into a small, one-story building with all that space. What happens next?

Making Steel Containers Into Something New

American innovators are taking these old steel crates and transforming them into much more useful items. This idea was pioneered back in 2011, when Starbucks created a shipping container store in Washington state, and later, the idea proliferated rapidly. In 2015, in California, Taco Bell created a large, permanent shop made out of an old shipping container. Today, many small cafes, bars, or little restaurants (often fast food restaurants) can be made out of these ready-made steel boxes. This is highly resource efficient, and might be done for a discount price. Contractors may be hired to cut out holes for windows, utilities, and more, and set up fabricated walls, flooring, and more to make the building more homely. A public space may have a counter and cash register set up, along with a small, functional kitchen, lighting, glass windows, seating, and more. the novelty and charm of a shipping container restaurant, bar, or coffee shop may bring in many customers and become something of a local attraction.


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