How can I reuse or recycle food cans?

Tin canThanks to the felines, we generate at least one empty tin can a day. Given the size of our kitchen and the delightful pseudo-fishy aroma they tend to emit, we tend to just throw the cans in the recycling bin as soon as they’re empty.

But there must be a thousand uses for them.

Back in the pistachio shell days, we came up with the idea of using the shells in two cans taped together to make a rattling percussion instrument, so that’s one idea – but I’d love to hear more because a girl can only use so many noise makers.

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29 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle food cans?”

  1. Jo says:

    They make great containers for almost anything. Wash thoroughly and Paint them up using acrylic paint or spray paint and then put them in your garden, kitchen, office etc. Look good with plants in or just as a pencil holder. Use different sized ones and stick them together to make one of those 80’s style desk tidies. You can also add one of those plastic keep fresh can lids that just pop over the rim, then if you cut a slit in it it makes a money box.

    If you have a little time try this:,,HGTV_3257_4021144,00.html

    You can also use a sharp tin punch to make patterns of holes in the sides of them, pop a tealight in the bottom and use them to create a fairylit walkway round your garden or outside your door on a summers evening. (Always place them on stone or heat resistant surface)

    Have Fun

  2. bev says:

    Yes, I use them for plant pots in the garden. I drill some holes in the bottom to help drainage first.

    I’ve also used them, with both ends cut off, as plant supports – and to keep slugs away (using the old vaseline trick on the top for any really dertermined slugs).

  3. shawnboy says:

    I/ve used them for roof patches on my shed, make hobo stoves out of them. I grow plants in them . Made the desk caddys out of them. Make buddy burners out of tuna cans usng recycled card board and recycled wax candles.patched holes in car floors with them repaired pipes w/them and recycled innertubes .

  4. I know it’s a bit childish but you could use them to make those “cup telephone” things…

  5. dotjay says:

    You can (!) also use them as a hiding place for keys, money, etc.

    Keeping labels on, either clean out a used can and create a plug for the top with some polystyrene, or open a can from the bottom, clean it out and create a plug for the bottom. Put something you want to hide inside and store plug-side down with your other cans.

  6. sandy says:

    You can make a tin man, look on and click on projects, type in tin man.

  7. Anne says:

    I use them for candle holders. Clean them inside and outside (take of lable). Fill them with water and freeze for a day. With the frozen water in them you can easily make holes with a hammer and a nail (wear gloves it is COLD) and voila once water is out you have great candleholders.

  8. njtomboy says:

    A while thread dedicated to projects from crafts to CAKES – yes you read me – CAKES!!!!!!

  9. Janette says:

    Make a clock. Punch a hole in the center on one side and insert a clock mechanism, punch a hole in the top on the opposite side to hang it. These make great clocks for the kitchen.

  10. Bobbie says:

    My mom used to make tin can doll house furniture by tin snipping the cans into strips then curling them around the needle nosed pliers, the seat was the bottom of the can. They looked sort of like fancy wicker furniture. But be warned, the edges are sharp.

  11. Cassandra says:

    Fill them with cement and connect two to the ends of a bar as weights

  12. SuzyQ says:

    Clean them out really well and dry just as well. Get a fitted top which can lock into place and put a slot in the top and give it to your children to help them save money – like a piggy bank but instead, it will be a tinny bank! This way, you as a parent encourage your children to save and learn about delayed gratification, and recycling!

  13. Tools, Jigs and Fixtures: The Key to Efficient Recycling Success!

    There is a form of can-opener, marketed Stateside at least, that cuts the can’s crimped rim from the *side* instead of punching through the can’s end from above and utterly ignoring that nearby outer rim in so doing. Having one or more of those Superior Devices handy at all times sure makes all the difference in my own little Inner City eco-hovel, anyway.

    Cutting the can open from the side and *through* the rim instead of dagging down from the top in the ordinary manner, y’see, makes for a fine *re-closeable* can of food, while the food lasts. Then one gets a fine standardized re-closeable tin-coated steel container for just about anything else that’ll fit inside, once the food is gone.

    Need a hermetic seal from that side-cut second-cycle can? Easily done! Duct tape, cyanoacrylate instant-bond and/or five-minute epoxy all are potentially suitable re-sealants, just depending.

    In these parts, many fine retail kitchen specialty shoppes sell these handy side-cutting can openers at full fine-specialty-shoppe retail. Wal-Mart carries a decent one too for half the price. (Occasionally, quality just breaks right on out.)

    Po’ folk such as myself just plain LIKE these fine Chinese container-makin’ hand-tools, yessirree. I think such a tool as this is well worth the trouble of finding; others may find a similar happy result for themselves as well.

    Reusable sure is better than disposable – all over again. Never could “go along” with a “Type A” media-driven hyper-disinformed culture and ethos that treats 25% of the world’s prisoners just like emptied-out tin cans, anyhow.

    Because it is not entirely genuinely human, is why. If only GWB could just once entirely grok why he got boo’d so *unanimously* at the ol’ ball game the other day…

    Let’s just keep on humanizing the beast, hm? Even greedy monsters die off, sooner or later… I’d much rather have impeached the bugger and his handler Darth Chain-o’-death, mese’f. Oh, Miz Nancy…

  14. noah says:

    Try this out You might find more ways to recycle other things

  15. PainChaud says:

    Punch holes in them..leave the bottom, make a handle with an old clothes hanger and lit a votive candle in it..voila a garden lantern!

  16. Yumeji says:

    Just Google “Kick the Can Ice Cream.”

  17. Ruti says:

    awesome tin can dog on Martha Stewart’s living site – completely useless, but very cute.

  18. Cipollina says:

    I made a rustic wall sconce/candle holder from one the other day. I screwed together two bits of an old weathered plank so one bit formed a shelf on the other which formed the back, and drilled a hole in the top of the back-bit to hang it on a hook or nail on the wall. Then I screwed a can onto the shelf-bit to hold a tealight. The can had been prepared the way Anne describes here:

    Other tins are used for tools in the shed, and the other day somebody told me I could put a couple into planting holes if my soil is short of iron.

  19. Maria says:

    Hi I love the idea of recycling cans but when I have googled tin can punches and other various keyword searches I cannot seem to find any punches designed specifically to punch through tin cans! Please does anybody know of where I can purchase these?

    Thanks for any help tips or pointers!!

    Maria XXX

    • Cipollina says:

      Hi, Maria!

      You don’t need special punches. I use a regular nail just big enough to punch holes in the bottom from inside the can (I do this so the lanterns I make can hang outside even when it rains). The point of the nail is square so the hole becomes a perfect little square. Not that this really matters – one doesn’t really look that close, as it’s the combination of several holes that makes up the pretty pattern.

      So. A hammer and a nail is really all you need. And a bit of a plank or board to do the hammering on so you don’t ruin your furniture.

      Another tip for making tin can lanterns: Fill the can 1/4 with fine gravel to weigh it down before putting in the candle. Gravel size must be bigger than the drainage holes you’ve made, of course.

      Yet another tip: When filling the can with water for freezing, fill it with sand to the brim first, *then* add water. It takes a lot less water, and therefore a lot less time to freeze this way. Let melt in a bowl so you can reuse the sand.

  20. Pat says:

    I use regular food cans to melt wax for making dipped candles. I save wax from used candles and add to the can until there’s enough, then set the can in a cast iron skillet and heat slowly until it’s melted. Tie a wick to a pencil or stick and dip into the wax, letting it cool completely between dips until you have a candle.

  21. Kara says:

    Attach clothes pins around the sides so it covers all the sharp edges. Can be used as a pencil holder or planter. Very cute with cat food cans, but would work for this project too!

  22. san says:

    Does anyone know of a specific blow torch that can be used to “cut through” used food cans?


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