Next time you eat out, grab a latte, or go shopping, you might be sitting inside a new kind of building. After all, another person’s trash is another one’s treasure, right?

By Tamara Kraus
Updated June 06, 2017
Modpools shipping container pool

Lately, innovative minds around the country have taken recycling to the next level with their creative transformations of used shipping containers. From decked-out swimming pools to modern homes and even a Starbucks in Washington, these vessels are being given a second life.

While cargo containers have a lifespan of about 10 to 15 years, they certainly aren’t all being used to their full potential. It’s estimated that there are approximately 24 million empty containers in the world that will never be used again.

Take a peek at just a few of the ways people are getting creative with cargo containers:

  • Swimming pools: Modpools are making a huge splash when it comes to repurposing shipping containers. An 8’ x 20’ pool runs for $26,000 (a bit pricier than a traditional in-ground pool), and allows you to control the water temperature, jets, and lighting right from your phone. The container even comes outfitted with a window if you choose to expose at least one side. Plus it takes no time to set up—just fill it with water and swim away.
  • Restaurants and bars: While there are quite a few restaurants participating in the trend, Smoky Park Supper Club in Asheville, North Carolina, is currently the biggest shipping-container restaurant in the U.S. The building, which was completed in 2014, is formed from 19 containers. And when it’s time for happy hour, head down South to the first container bar in Austin (an Instagrammer’s paradise) made of seven of the transportation vessels.
  • Shopping malls: These days, you’ll find the trendsetters where the shipping containers are. Whether you’re a fan of pops of color (you’ll be obsessed with this urban space in Mexico) or like to keep things more neutral, the possibilities are endless when it comes shipping container buildings — they fit in so well that you might not even realize it when you see them!