Perhaps only those in the transport industry can really understand just how influential an invention the seemingly humble shipping container has been. Recognised as one of the most impactful innovations of the twentieth century, it has affected globalisation in such a way as to completely change the world's economy.
For haulage companies, life without the shipping container is unimaginable in the modern era. But what happens when their functionality in terms of ocean-going shipping comes to an end? For any haulage companieslooking for ideas to recycle these mammoth steel boxes in a useful and environmentally friendly way, the following are worth considering.
A recycled container presents the perfect vessel for the fashionable "pop-up" bars, cafés and shops that are, well, popping up all over the urban landscape. Their size and manoeuvrability make them ideal as temporary retail or servery spaces, and they can be easily and cheaply branded and outfitted.
Containers are also being recycled as indoor farms and greenhouses. Their portability enables them to be used for a variety of crops, including vegetables and flowers, and the fact that they're stackable facilitates their use in far smaller spaces than those required for traditional farming.
Architects are finding more and more ways to utilise shipping containers for high-density housing projects, such as student campuses and homeless shelters. One clever company in Copenhagen has even sent them back to the sea by creating a floating development!
Think about it: what's not to love about a ready-made swimming pool that can just be dropped into the back garden and filled up with water? With no digging or planning permission required, it's a dream come true.
One London-based company has created a modular system, which enables the recycled steel boxes to be used as stand-alone classrooms for inner-city schools. They're quick and easy to install – not to mention that they’re far more cost-effective than permanent structures.
The use of containers in playgrounds is only limited by the imagination: they can be transformed into anything from an Aladdin's cave to a battleship, as one Australian company is proving with its creative playground installations.
Upcycling is the buzzword of our times, and furniture made from the scrapped, world-weary metal boxes by a specialised company in Brazil is taking the market by storm. For those who like their furniture with a provenance, these pieces perfectly embody this description.
Creative souls need their creative space – and what could be better inspiration than recycling the old to make room for new ideas? The University of East London is just one institution that has made use of old shipping containers to construct a hive of artists' hubs.
Bridging the Gap
Literally. In Israel, architects have pushed the use of the boxes to their limits by using them to construct a colourful and highly functional 160-metre long eco-bridge across a former landfill site, which is accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and special shuttle vehicles.
Imagine a garden shed that won't rot, doesn't need any assembling or maintenance and is entirely weatherproof. As well as serving as a fantastic storage space for tools and the mower, they can also be repurposed into homes, offices, studios, potting sheds or even playhouses for the kids.
Haulage companies who are looking to enhance their green credentials and contribute to the sustainability of the transport industry have endless inspiration at their fingertips. The options for reimagining shipping containers are every bit as innovative as the original invention itself.
Norman Dulwich is a Correspondent for Haulage Exchange, the leading online trade network for the road transport industry. Connecting professionals across the UK and Europe through their website, Haulage Exchange provides services for matching haulage companies or self-employed drivers with jobs in road transport and haulage work. Over 4,800transport exchange businesses are networked together through their website, trading jobs and capacity in a safe 'wholesale' environment.