Self-Storage = Avoiding or Piling up Waste?

According to the UK Self Storage Association 800, self-storage facilities exist now all over the UK, and this figure is steadily growing.  This is estimated to be equal to about 29.5 million square feet of precious space.

But does it mean that we save landfills from overflowing or rather that we just have an alternative place for waste, which people will even pay for?

Self-storage has been part of every day life in the US since the 1960’s but these large warehouses are now becoming more and more popular in the UK, as well. Main reasons for this could be the ever smaller homes and the increasing divorce rate, when people need some space to store their ‘stuff’ instead of disposing of them.  Other ‘customers’ of these warehouses include youngsters who move back to their parents’ home.

Self-storage trends

Self-storage seems to be a very good business, as the top two market players (Safestore and Big Yellow) are already listed on the Stock Exchange, and have 96 and 74 UK-based facilities, respectively. They have reported revenue growth on a year-on-year basis, as well as expanding business. For example, Big Yellow’s annual store revenue was over GBP 60 million in 2010.

According to the latest study, also the time people store their things for has been increasing, from an average of 22 weeks in 2007 to 38 weeks, which may also mean that they spend much more on a monthly basis.

Businesses have also discovered this solution for keeping their stock and using these facilities as warehouses, while Big Yellow even offers wine storage in Fulham if customers don’t have enough space.

Eco-solution or a pile of waste? The pros and cons

From one side, self-storage could mean that more waste is saved from landfills, which thus won’t overflow, and people even pay for it. At least more than council tax for waste collection. Also, the items in the rooms and boxes may be eventually re-used by the owners or given away to others.

On the other hand, these may end up on the landfill anyway – just a bit later, while even then they may not be suitable for recycling. Furthermore, more and more self-storage facilities due to the ever increasing demand could take up precious space, which may be put for a better use, in an already rather crowded country.

Overall, self-storage may seem to be a good solution if people use it temporarily but we may rather want to seriously consider whether to dispose of ‘stuff’ in an environmentally friendly way (recycling or re-using) or to pile them up in a locked room. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.

Written for the Energy Saving Warehouse

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