Shipping containers are built to withstand a lot of pressure, from salty seawater and extreme weather to being stacked on top of each other and dragged around the world. Once the days of transporting goods are done for these steel containers, some are sold to other businesses for gentler storage use, holding items such as inventory overstock, construction materials, or office supplies. Others are repurposed into completely different structures, such as food trucks, houses, farms, and more. But what about the many shipping containers that don’t get resold or sent to perform a new purpose and are just left to rot? What happens to the containers that are no longer useful, since they’re so sturdy? Let’s take a look at several methods of shipping container disposal below.
Left to Rust
Leaving a used shipping container to slowly rust is certainly one of the least efficient ways for them to end their days. Not only is a graveyard of rusting containers an ugly sight to look at, it’s also harmful to the earth around the area. Leaving these containers to sit out in the weather and rust away allows many contaminants to seep into the soil and waterways.
Fortunately, people have become more aware of the issue and are taking steps to protect the earth. We’re seeing fewer and fewer shipping containers sitting and rusting away in dumps as time goes by and we find better methods of container disposal. This is still the fate for a handful on the millions of containers that are put out of use each year, but it’s a work in progress.
Recycling used shipping containers is a new trend seen around the globe. People are buying them up and using them to build sustainable homes, apartment complexes, offices, small businesses, and other structures. Using a recycled storage container for another purpose is a great way to use something that still has a lot of life left in it.
Shipping containers are also disposed of with more traditional recycling methods. They can be crushed, torn apart, and melted down, and the metals are turned into other metallic objects, leaving fewer containers to rust away in the dump.
A fairly new way to recycle shipping containers is to use them for artistic purposes. At city art fairs, you can see more artists converting these containers into moving art galleries to display their works. The containers also sometimes become a work of art themselves as a metallic canvass or in sculpture!
Schools, Offices, and Homes
As mentioned above, many businesses are buying up these containers to give them new purposes. School districts buy them to convert into extra learning space (or storage space) as the school population grows. Small, sustainable shipping container homes are popping up, and oftentimes you can see added container space to an office building that’s growing fast and in need of more workspace. The possibilities are endless when it comes to recycling and converting these shipping containers.
A big benefit to using these containers as added space is the fact that they’re mobile. You can move your business, school, or office storage where you need it, when you need it. It’s also more convenient, cheaper, and easier to add storage for your business with a container than to move to a larger building.
Marine debris is a growing problem, and sometimes used shipping containers add to it. In May of 2009, an international standard for dismantling and recycling ships and their shipping containers was set into place to help curb the debris of these vessels going into the ocean and other waterways. With other organizations in place to monitor the water and keep the marine debris from ships and other land-based contaminants, this standard can help make sure all shipping containers are disposed of or repurposed in a better way.
Shipping container disposal methods have improved over time. We’re no longer content with simply leaving them to rust in a heap on the land or in the ocean. They’re being recycled in several ways, from more traditional disassembling to reusing them in unique and creative ways!