How can I reuse or recycle large (catering size) food cans?

Sam has emailed asking about large food cans:

I have a number of large metal food cans, some zinc lined, which are called #10 size. They hold about 5 or 6 lbs (just under 3kg) of beans, or other foods. Now that they’re empty, they are open on one end, with no plastic lid to fit them. Any ideas?

Surely I’m not the only one faced with this. I can recycle them, but would like to reuse them.

They sound like pretty big tin cans – probably similar to what we call “catering size” in the UK. I think at least some of the ideas we have for regular size tin cans could be supersized here: plant pots, candle/tea holders for several candles, or using them as a vessel for making those candles in the first place.

But are there any reuses (or upcycling ideas) that are perfect for these bigger cans? Could the can be flattened out to make anything?


She recycled that! Upcycling novelty hats into bunting/pennants

Last September, Karen emailed us about the vast collection of novelty jester hats that her boyfriend had collected at various carnivals and festivals over the years. She wanted to know how she could reuse or recycle them as she hadn’t had much success giving them away.

Lots of people made suggestions – including trying to give them to local schools/drama groups/groups that did clowning classes or making them into a purse or tea cosy – but Karen loved Meg’s suggestion of turning them into bunting/pennants:

Last year I sent an email about novelty jester hats and of the suggestions was to make a string of decorative pennants, like the kind for birthdays (the upside down triangle). I did this and am pretty proud of the result!!

Oh very fun! Great work Karen – and thanks to Meg for the suggestion in the first place! :D

I do love to see what people are reusing and recycling – especially if they’ve been inspired by something on the site – so if you’ve reused/recycled anything in an interesting, clever or fun way, please do get in touch :)


How can I reuse or recycle wallpaper samples?

Following on from the paint tester pots the other week, I’ve got some wallpaper samples that have served their purpose too. I really can’t wait for our renovations to be over!

Like the paint, the samples were to check out ideas/colours/designs in-situ. Some of them were torn from rolls in shops (with permission! I’m not just a random vandal ;) ) and are about 60cm/2ft wide by about the same long, while others are A4 sheets that I’ve had posted out to check colours. They’re all thick, heavy paper as you would expect from wallpaper.

Obviously the best thing would have been to reduce in the first place – to be a bit more decisive and not collected so many samples but like with the paint, these are to offset a potentially larger waste by picking the wrong thing – so now I’m looking for reusing/upcycling ideas.

Most of them are “feature” wallpapers so patterns & colours that I like but not enough for them to be displayed as framed pieces of art in their own right. The ones with a small repeating pattern though could be used as paper behind something else in a frame though (for example, I have some pretty buttons that I might want to display – they would look great on some of the plain-ish pinstriped paper).

They’d be fine for lining drawers too – many people (including us) don’t line drawers with paper any more because the insides on modern furniture don’t tend to be as rough on delicates as they used to be but it’s certainly worth doing on vintage furniture – and looks pretty too.

Do kids still have to back school textbooks/exercise books? We used to use wallpaper (amongst other things) for that. The fact I have to ask that question probably shows that it’s not a reuse I could specifically do but others might be able to reuse wallpaper samples in that way — and I could keep some for next time I make a notebook for myself.

Any other ideas? How would you reuse wallpaper samples? Are they suitable for any papercrafts or would they be too thick?


How can I reuse or recycle medical plastic tubing?

We’ve had an email from Janette asking about medical plastic tubing:

I need to know how I might reuse/recycle medical plastic tubing. My husband uses an oxygen tank and the cannula (clear plastic tubing) needs to be changed every two weeks. After the nasal clip is removed, biowaste/garbage – there’s still a ten foot length (3/16″ caliper) of sturdy, clear tubing that I would have to discard. Any ideas?

I live in the USA and the rural county recycling center I use doesn’t recycle this type of plastic.

(3/16 caliper is just under 5mm apparently)

That seems like it would be a really useful thing – the type of thing that would make a welcome addition to any tool kit. Some reuse ideas that spring to mind: using it to (softly) tie plants/trees to supports, wrapped around (and probably glued into place) a tool handle to provide some cushioning and I suspect some clever people could use it for drip-feed watering systems for greenhouses or the like.

It could be used for craft creations in its own right too: I’ve seen people making statement jewellery from tubing before; I’ve been looking at pendant light fittings recently and saw one made from loops of (albeit thicker) tubing; and I wonder if it’s flexible enough to be used for macramé or crochet/knitting – anyone seen any projects that could use lengths of tubing?

(One word of warning: apparently this type of tubing will discolour (yellow) over time when exposed to UV (sun) light.)

Finally, it might be worth containing the medical supply company to see if they’d be willing to take it back for recycling – if enough people ask, they might be compelled to do something.

Any other reusing or recycling ideas?


What can I reuse or recycle as moulds for making new crayons from old ones?

We asked about stuff to reuse/recycle as homemade soup moulds not too long ago but Danell has messaged with a variation on that theme:

I want to melt old crayon stubs together to make new crayons for kids. I know I could use old muffin tins or ice cube trays, neither of which I have, but I was wanting them in a little more interesting shapes. I’ve seen them made in candy molds, but again, I don’t have any. Any ideas?

A lot of the soup mould ideas we had resulted in practical rather than interesting shapes – but I’m sure there are interesting shaped potential moulds out there too :) I’d look to kid-related packaging – sweet (candy) packaging or toy packaging which is formed plastic around a shape. With Easter coming up, there might be a few egg or bunny shapes floating around for reuse.

Another idea might be to make your own moulds: I suspect Danell doesn’t have all the time in the world for carving intricate shapes but — and this is a complete I-have-no-knowledge-about-this suggestion — could they be made from something like salt dough? Could you make a sheet of salt dough in a baking tray and press fun shapes into it – again toys or magnetic letters – then varnish it to use as a mould? Please feel free to correct me if that wouldn’t work!

One thing to remember – there needs to be a balance between interesting shapes and usability. I’ve seen some new crayons made in star shaped moulds but I imagine the pointy bits would hurt small hands and be a bit awkward to hold too.

Any other ideas? What have you used for interesting shaped moulds — whether for crayons, soap or sweets? Have you made your own moulds from anything in particular?