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Recycling container

A container (English:  [ ˌkɔnˈtɛɪnɘr ] ; German:  [ ˌkonˈteːnɐ ] ; from Latin continere for “ hold together”, “contain”) mostly denotes large-capacity containers for the storage and transport of goods . The freight containers come in a wide variety of sizes and are usually standardized and / or standardized in order to simplify transport and planning. Please click to listen!PlayPlease click to listen!Play


Wooden outer packaging boxes were used in England as early as the 18th century. These forerunners of today's containers allowed goods to be transferred more quickly from rail to horse transport. In the 19th century, there were early container forms in various countries that were used to transport freight by rail.

Container wagons with various containers

In the 20th century, for example, the Laadkist RTM 903 can be found in Holland as a railway container. In the 1920s, the Railway Clearing House (RCH) in Great Britain set some kind of standard for the railway containers so that they could be better used between the various railway companies. These RCH containers were either 5 or 10 feet (′) long.

At the end of the 1940s, the railways in Germany used the porteur aménagé containers ( pa containers for short ) developed in the Netherlands , which held up to 11 cubic meters of cargo. At the same time, the Swiss Feldschlösschen brewery patented rail transport containers for its beer bottles, the Swiss Containercars .

In 1956, the American Malcom McLean was the first to ship 58 containers on the Ideal X from Newark to Houston ; In 1961 the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) established internationally valid dimensions for ISO containers for the first time.

ISO container

The most important and best-known type of container is the 40 'container for merchant shipping with the dimensions 12.192 m × 2.438 m × 2.591 m (L × W × H). More than 15 million of this type of container according to ISO  668 (freight container) are in traffic.

40-foot ISO container
20 foot swap tank container

The freight or ship container was introduced in 1956 by the shipowner Malcolm McLean on the US east coast for freight transport . At first it was disparagingly referred to as the “box ship”, but soon prevailed - against strong resistance from the port workers, who feared for their jobs and fought for better tariffs.

Two thirds of all cross-border goods traffic are now carried out with container ships . The freight containers became the basis of the globalization of the economy; with them u. a. most of the trade in goods is carried out with finished products . Due to their standardized shape, the containers can be transported by a wide variety of means of transport ( ocean-going vessels , inland waterway vessels , railways and trucks ) and quickly handled without the cargo itself having to be handled ( intermodal transport ).

Commonly used are 20- foot containers - the so-called TEU ( Twenty Foot Equivalent Unit ) - and 40-foot containers (FEU = Forty Foot Equivalent Unit). The 20 'standard containers measure (outside) 6.058 m × 2.438 m × 2.591 m and can e.g. B. can hold 10,000 jeans or 20,000 watches in their original packaging, but also bulky goods, goods to be cooled in refrigerated containers , etc. The largest container ships hold around 23,000 such standard containers (as of October 2019, CMA CGM Megamax-24 ).

The largest fully automated container port has been Hamburg- Altenwerder for several years .

Around 27.5 million TEU standard containers (20 ′, 40 ′ or 40 ′ high cube) were in circulation worldwide in mid-2010 . The average lifespan of a standard steel container is 12 to 13 years. Lately these containers have mainly been manufactured in China, most recently almost 3 million TEU annually. After the consequences of the financial crisis significantly reduced freight volumes, this production almost came to a standstill. There is still a demand for special containers such as reefer containers.

The standard containers (also called dry containers) can be divided into four groups:
( load weight = net load in the container)
( dimensions are internal dimensions )

Dry container

Art length width height capacity Loading weight
20 ′ standard 6,095 m 2,352 m 2.393 m 33.2 m³ 21740/28230 kg
40 ′ standard 12,032 m 2,352 m 2.393 m 67.7 m³ 26630 kg
High cube 12,032 m 2,352 m 2,698 m 76.3 m³ 26520 kg

Reefer container

Art length width height capacity Loading weight
20 ′ standard 5.444 m 2.284 m 2.267 m 28.5 m³ 21135/27160 kg
40 ′ standard 11,583 m 2.284 m 2,250 m 58.7 m³ 26580 kg
High cube 11,583 m 2.284 m 2.556 m 67.9 m³ 26380 kg

Open top container

Art length width height capacity Loading weight
20 ′ standard 5,900 m 2,330 m 2,337 m 32.6 m³ 21740 kg
40 ′ standard 12,029 m 2,330 m 2,337 m 68.5 m³ 26410 kg

Flat rack container

Art length width height capacity Loading weight
20 ′ standard 5.628 m 2.178 m 2.159 m - 27800 kg
40 ′ standard 12.05 m 2.178 m 1,986 m - 40 250 kg

Bulk container

Waste container

Skip container (garbage container) with container vehicle

Containers are also used in particular for waste disposal as a collection and transport unit for waste . These are especially suitable for a larger amount of waste that exceeds the capacity and the permitted type of waste in garbage cans . In particular, other types of waste, such as building rubble or mixed construction waste, bulky waste , steel scrap or garden waste, can also be disposed of here.

Roll-off container (garbage container) with container vehicle

There are different types of containers that can vary in height and length with the same filling quantity and are used depending on the circumstances and loading options. Drop-off containers are attached to holding chains by the container vehicle and set down or raised horizontally by two lifting arms.

Skip container

Containers that are parked and pulled up with skip trucks, mostly with chains. The mostly asymmetrically designed containers are preferably found with a capacity of 7 m³.

Roll-off container

Roll-off containers have rollers and are picked up and pulled up or set down by a hydraulic lifting arm with hooks.

Usual dimensions

Container types and sizes
Container type (volume) Width in mm Height in mm length in mm
Bigbag - garbage bag (1 m³) 1000 1000 1000
Skip container (3 m³) 1290 0950 2450
Skip container (5 m³) 1900 1250 3100
Skip container with lid (5 m³) 1900 1600 3200
Skip container (7 m³) 1900 1600 3600
Skip container with lid (7 m³) 1900 1600 3550
Skip container (10 m³) 1900 1800 3900
Skip container with lid (10 m³) 1900 2050 4150
Skip container with doors (15 m³) 2000 1500 5000
Roll-off container open or with lid (7 m³) 2000 1000 4000
Roll-off container open or with lid (10 m³) 2000 1400 4000
Roll-off container open or with lid (15 m³) 2400 1600 4200

Due to the high capacity (from a volume of at least 1 m³) these waste bins are considered to be containers.

For containers of this size in Germany, an installation permit must be applied for from the city or municipality. This application can be made using a form or informally. The fees vary depending on the type of use, but amount to at least 35 euros. Used clothing collections on public property are generally not permitted; a special responsibility also applies to green spaces.

Other types of containers

Roll-off container with fire fighting equipment
Container for dry ice

There are a large number of other container types , some of which are described in international standards. Standardization supports intermodal transport , in which the carrier vehicle is changed at least once. The type of carrying vehicle is often changed (so-called " intermodal transport ") in order to gain advantages:

Containers as space-forming modules

Container building

Containers are also used as a module for constructing container buildings . They can be adapted and pre-set up for a wide range of uses, for example as a living container , office container , toilet container or school container . To do this, they are usually insulated, provided with doors and windows and equipped on the inside. So they can serve as a lounge for people.

See also


  • Marc Levinson: The Box - How the Shipping Container made the world smaller and the economy bigger . 9th edition. Princeton University Press, Princeton 2008, ISBN 978-0-691-13640-0 .
  • Olaf Preuß: A box conquers the world . Murmann Verlag, Hamburg 2010, ISBN 978-3-86774-113-2 .
  • Container manual. Technical information from German transport insurers . March 2003 online version .
  • Axel Dossmann, Jan Wenzel, Kai Wenzel: Temporary architecture. Barracks, pavilions, containers. b_books, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-933557-66-6 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Container  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Container  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ History of the container ( Memento from May 12, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  2. Laadkist
  3. ^ Forerunner of modern container traffic
  4. Swiss Containercars
  5. How tin boxes changed trade. In: May 8, 2016, Retrieved May 9, 2016 .
  6. Container Compendium ( Memento from June 1, 2011 in the Internet Archive ; PDF; 879 kB) p. 10.
  7. Information on container types and sizes. In: Archived from the original on October 9, 2014 ; accessed on October 7, 2014 .
  8. Container - definition of terms in the container handbook (technical information from German transport insurers) , accessed on October 7, 2014.
  9. Regulations and installation permit for containers of the City of Hamburg ; accessed on October 7, 2014.
  10. Slawik, Han: Container Atlas: Handbook of Container Architecture . Gestalten, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-89955-294-2 .