If you’re like me, you probably take a large number of tin cans to the recycling bin. Kudos to you who recycle these cans. Visualize for a moment a large grocery store. Let your eyes wander up and down the aisles. How many tin cans are there? Probably half of those shelves overflow with these cans. America does a lot of cooking, baking, and eating from these cans. Getting rid of the empty cans by recycling is the best way to dispose of them, but before you toss them all, can you make use of a few around the house? Yes. Start by saving various size cans.
There is, of course, the ubiquitous pencil holder. This probably constitutes the most common reuse of the tin can. That’s okay, but don’t just let it sit on your desk unadorned. Decorate it: paint it, cover it with cloth or wallpaper, glue on ornaments, or wrap it in yarn. These are just a few possibilities. How can you make other uses of these tin cans?
Around the House
The round tuna fish cans and the oblong breath mint cans, with or without the lids, make great organizers. Place several of these in a drawer to collect all those small items you find at a desk or on top of a bureau. Gone are the days of searching for a lost key or messing with scattered paper clips. Using cans in this way is a great way to declutter your home.
If you don’t recycle those plastic bags you get when you grocery shop, save them in a can. Find a large can that has a plastic cover, perhaps a coffee can or a large commercial can. Cut a large hole in the cover, stuff the bags inside the can, and pull a bag out one at a time. No longer will you have a pile of bags scattering about.
In the kitchen, you can use a soup can or a can of another size as a biscuit or cookie cutter. Now your biscuits and cookies will have a uniform shape. Take several tall cans, paint them in one or several colors, glue their sides together in a pyramid and, voila, you have a wine rack. The cans don’t have to be as tall as a wine bottle, just long enough to hold the bottle. This makes an appealing sight sitting on a cabinet surface.
Use this same idea elsewhere in the house. Stack and decorate cans to become a cubby for your different colored yarns or scarves or at your desk for all those odd pens and pencils. You no longer need to hide your bathroom towels or washcloths in a drawer. Roll them up and stuff them into a cubby made of various size cans.
Using tin cans as flower or plant pots is certainly not a new idea. However, using your creativity, paint these cans in various colors and arrange various sizes into attractive groupings. Don’t just set them down somewhere. Hang them with rope holders, pile them in an overlapping assortment, or nail them to a wall. A small can, like a vegetable or beans can, makes a great starter pot. Just punch a small hole in the bottom for drainage.
Would you like to attract more birds to your yard? Another use for a hanging tin can is a bird feeder or even a bird’s nest. For a feeder, cut a can open only half way around and fold that portion back on itself. Glue another lid onto the end of the can or a strip of tin to give the bird a resting place. Hang with wire or rope. For a nest, secure the can to a surface to keep it from swinging. Use different size cans to attract different species of birds.
Your deck or patio will sparkle at night with luminary cans. Remove only one end of a can and punch little holes around the side. These holes can be at random or in a design. Paint the can a dark color, preferably black, and then install a short candle. You can also punch a hole in the bottom of the can to allow for the cord of an electric light to pass through. Either way, you now have eye-catching lighting outdoors. They’re also attractive indoors.
Honor our Native Americans and build a totem pole. For this project, you want large cans. Cut off the top of a large laundry detergent bottle and trim the edges into wings. The cans can be stacked and glued on each other to set on a table. On the other hand, you can run a pole of any length and pass it through the cans and the detergent top, wrap the bottom of the pole in duct tape, and push it into the ground. You now have a piece of outdoor art.
Have your kids always wanted to play in the snow but you live in the desert? Help them make a tin can snowman. Take three large cans, either of the same or different sizes, and paint them white. Attach large buttons on the front. Punch a hole on each side and insert twig or branch arms. Draw a carrot nose or attach a real carrot; more buttons can make a mouth and eyes. Lids can make ears. Then give the statue a hat and a scarf and you now have your own snowman.
Your kids probably love The Wizard of Oz. Help them make their own tin man by joining undecorated cans together. Various sizes can make arms, legs, the body, and a head. Glue on buttons for eyes and a coat front. Decorate for a nose and mouth, perhaps give him a hat and don’t forget he needs a heart. Be prepared for all the neighborhood kids to come play with their own tin man.
Avoid cuts and accidents. Choose cans with smooth edges or file the edges smooth. Make sure all cans are clean, inside and out. Most projects require removing the labels, but if you choose to retain the label, give it a good coating of shellac to protect it.
Obtain tin cutting shears from the hardware store for use in shaping cans. Do not use your kitchen scissors. Use non-water-soluble glue, such as super glue, when affixing buttons and other objects to the tin cans.
There are a myriad other ways to repurpose a tin can in addition to recycling them. What other ideas can you create?