Much of the world’s shipping is done by ship across the oceans, and these massive vessels carry many tons of goods of all kinds inside metal shipping containers. Most Americans have probably seen these distinctive metal boxes before, either in person or in media, and those metal crates are usually painted a solid color and can carry goods of just about any type. Many of them are in circulation around the globe today, but take note that not all of them are currently in use. Some are sitting around in storage, and they aren’t doing anyone any good that way. Fortunately, more and more entrepreneurs choose to buy used storage containers and put them to new use, from making office containers for sale to mobile offices for construction managers and even homes or fast food restaurants. How does this work?

On Shipping Containers

Most of these steel containers are made in China, and it is believed that around 17 million of them are found around the globe today. Of them, six million are currently in use, and they vary a great deal in size. Some of them are modest 40 foot shipping containers for smaller freight deliveries, while the largest are around 1,300 feet long for storing a lot of goods at once. A typical metal container can last about 20 years if cared for, and all together, these containers make around 200 million trips each and every year.

Why buy used storage containers? While many are currently in use by shipping companies, even more are just sitting around in storage, and this is a waste of metal. Steel is among the most widely used material in the entire world, and just one shipping container is made up of hundreds or even thousands of kilograms of it. If nothing else, an old shipping container can be melted down into steel to use elsewhere, but that is not the only option. Some creative builders today choose to buy used storage containers, as they make for useful building blocks for mobile or small-scale buildings.

New Uses for Those Steel Containers

This trend is fairly new, but it has already gained a great deal of traction. In the late 2000s, entrepreneurs on the West Coast decided to buy used storage containers, and with them, they built a new fast food restaurants and coffee shops with ease. These shipping container buildings proved popular, and the idea took off. Now, many builders are buying these metal containers, and they can be combined and cut as needed. For example, just one steel shipping container can act as the frame for a new coffee shop or fast food restaurant, once holes are cut into it for the windows and utilities. The interior can be fabricated with carpeting, walls, and lighting fixtures, not to mention any desired windows. A kitchen can be set up, and holes in the container allow utilities such as water, natural gas, and electricity to run in the new structure. A counter and cash register can complete this brand-new shop.

Fast food shops are a great option for newly bought steel containers, but there is more. These steel containers can also be fashioned into mobile offices, with everything from fabricated walls and lighting to carpets and windows, and enough room for office furniture. These are an attractive option for construction company managers, who need offices that can be moved to a construction site for work and then moved to a new site later. Lastly, shipping container houses are gaining popularity, where one or more containers can be used to make a residence. A single, large container can be used to make a narrow but comfortable house, and more ambitious projects can combine two, four, or even eight steel containers into a single structure, with more floor space and even a second floor. A container can be tilted at its side to act as a sheltered stairway to the second floor, too. To make these houses, some containers will have a few walls or their roofs cut out so they can combine with other steel containers and share their space, in effect acting as one giant container for a residence.

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