One of the unforeseen results of our dependence on foreign-made goods is that the United States and Europe have enormous stockpiles of empty steel surplus shipping containers. While some are reused for freight, others sit and rust. But where some see eyesores, entrepreneurs see opportunities, buying containers (they’re cheap) and retrofitting them for all sorts of uses, such as:

1. Snoozebox

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(Image: via Snoozebox)

Need a few hundred upscale hotel rooms for a music festival, seasonal park or G-8 Summit? UK-based Snoozebox sure hopes so. Snoozeboxes can be loaded, stacked and transported quickly and efficiently by road, rail, air or sea to almost any destination in the world.

2. Granary Row, Salt Lake City

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(Image: via Inhabitat)

Granary Row is a unique, nonprofit urban development that is converting a rundown industrial and warehouse area in downtown Salt Lake City into a hip destination. Small businesses are encouraged to convert shipping containers into art galleries, shops, eateries and entertainment spots. (via: Inhabitat.)

3. Office building, Shanghai

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(Image: via Playze.com)

Using containers as its core structure, Shanghai, China-based Tony’s Farm is an organic farm packing station, visitor center, hotel and office building in one.

4. Mobile data centers

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(Image: via SGI.com)

Low-tech meets high-tech as companies turn containers into mobile data centers that can be deployed anywhere in the world for special situations — or to quickly expand the capacity of an existing center.

5. The Freedom Tower Subway

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(Image: via Inhabitat)

One of the most creative uses of a container was as a movable Subway canteen during the construction of One World Trade Center in New York. As the building went up, so did the eatery that served some 3,000 hungry construction workers.

(Featured image: on Flickr via Lightmash)

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