How can I reuse or recycle 35mm film canisters?

35mm film canisterI know digital cameras are usurping their existence now but we’ve still got a large number of these little pots lying around the house.

I also vaguely remember that these little items were subjected to months of discussion on the Guardian letters page a year or so ago – but I can’t remember any of the suggestions other than using them for salt and pepper for camping trips.

So can anyone else remember any of the suggestions or does you have wonderful ideas of your own?

Best Suggestions

  • Reduce: Moving to digital cameras obviously cuts down a lot of waste – these canisters, the films themselves, the chemicals used for developing and printing every single photo, good and bad – but they do have their own resource costs – particularly if you upgrade often.
  • Reuse: Because they’re small and tightly sealed, a lot of people use them when travelling or camping – use them for vitamins & prescription tablets (although take your prescription too if you’re going overseas because they sometimes ask), small amounts of toiletries, jewellery, or even food condiments.
  • Recycle: Lots of schools and other organisations use them in art classes and the like – see below for specific people collecting them or offer them to teachers locally.
  • See the comments below for more suggestions and ideas

(Original photo by Underdog80)

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54 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle 35mm film canisters?”

  1. Anke says:

    Storage container for small items: e.g. small screws, nails, washers, nuts, needles, button, beads etc.

    If the tubs are clear or have a clear lid you can see what is contained within, if they are the black type you can glue or stich an example of the content to the lid.

  2. I used mine to make some kids stamps

    If you are feeling generous you could even donate them to the local school

    Other than that they make great Lip Balm holders for home made lip balm.

  3. Jill says:

    I go walking in the countryside a lot with my husband. I like a drink of coffee when we are out, but I don’t like coffee which has been kept in a flask for a long time.
    So what I do is take a flask containing only boiling water and add the coffee which I keep in a film canister, and is pre-measured.

  4. Rosie says:

    They good holders for fishing hooks and keep them safely away from fingers… label as to size and type.
    Aslo good for storing lead shot ..used for weights.
    And lets not forget the flies that fishermen use!

  5. mick oc says:

    can i have them lol i really need some and cant find any cheers

  6. colin says:

    if anyone has large numbers of these pots to get rid of donations would be nice cheers col

  7. eric says:

    they are actually really handy to keep small things dry in…
    my favourite use is to store my salt (or other herbs) for when I’m travelling. no more lumpy salt, and it’s always in a handy travel portion too!

  8. We can use them for Emergency Message in a Bottle / Data Link scheme

  9. Rachel says:

    They are a great and unique gift wrapping for small gifts. You could dress them up with some ribbon around the canister and a bow on top.

    I use them to hold my earrings when I travel, and they also make a good travel pill holder.

  10. Amanda Kerik says:

    These can be used as forms for soil pellets.

    You’ll need a plunger to push the soil out – easily done like so:

  11. GirlGenius says:

    If you’re a smoker, keep one in your pockets to put your butts in, rather than dropping them on the pavement/beach/grass.

  12. Sack36 says:

    Check your local church. If they do any outreach to the homeless, they often use these containers to dispense things like laundry soap or shampoo to street people.

  13. trish says:

    store jewelry when traveling.

    store vitamins in them for travel

    poke holes in the top, salt and pepper shaker for camping. Great for storing herbs for trips too.

    perfect for holding quarters. (great for college students who to the laundromat.)

    great container for the “tooth fairy”

    kids always find fun things with them (beware, choking)

    paint them, they’re beads, play people, logs, alphabets.. etc

    store craft beads

    you’re supposed to keep any ticks you find on your body for a certain time to test for lyme disease if you get sick… i guess they could work.

  14. Lori says:

    These film canisters make great containers to start indoor seed growing in.

  15. Parenthesis says:

    Hot water – about 1/2 fill the cannister.
    1/2 alka-seltser blue-tacked to the inside of the lid.

    Put on lid.

    Turn upside down & place on table.

    Run away.

  16. Vikki says:

    I use them to store beads and buttons. I glue one an example of that bead or button to the top and am able to see at a glance the types of bead / button that I have to work with. An added bonus is if the container is clear!

  17. Sophie says:


    I though some of you may be interested in seeing what Kodak have to say about the use of those canisters for other purpose than storing film. In a nutshell, there is no risk whatsoever with toxic leakage from the plastic, it seems to be pretty safe, altough they explain the plastic use is not FDA approved for food (this is in the States), there has never been any problems reported to the compagny.

    You can find the complete information here:

  18. Sarah says:

    I use them to keep my foreign coins and very folded up notes in. A bit of masking tape on the outside for writing the country name on. Handy if you think you’ll go back!

  19. Woody says:


    These are extremely useful to the Tarantula keeping Community for spiderlings when they hatch into the 1000’s from various eggsacs.

    If you have lots to get rid of email me on

  20. Lee says:

    I’ve used them for storing advil or aleve in a travel bag, in my car and work bag. You could store small things like safety pins, sewing needles, etc.

  21. Dan O'Hara says:

    These film canisters are great for tablets – if you’re going away for afew days you can take just what you need with you.
    Or if you take alot in a day, get 7 or so and put what you need in each one for each day – you can just chuck the contents in your mouth.
    Or if you can never get your hand into anything, put the contents into one of these and you’ll be able to get it easily.

  22. Anna Hackman says:

    I actually used them to store my seeds from my vegetable garden. Since the containers are dark, light can not get in. (It is best to store seeds a dark cool place.) I placed the containers in the refrigerator for next year’s use. Hope this helps. anna

  23. Jamie says:

    I made a mini first aid kit with one of those.. lol
    Just decorate it on the outside, the put half a q-tip, some first aid cream in a small baggie (cut it) some bandaids and maybe some gauze. On the outside paint a red cross or “First Aid Kit” I even hot glued some dental floss as a handle! I even saw some people use them as keychains (attaching them with a key ring)

  24. reducinator says:

    Switch to a digital camera

  25. njtomboy says:

    Feeling ambitious… How about a room divider:

  26. Jo says:

    You can keep your eraser nice and clean in one of these tubs inside your pencil case – especially useful if you have lots of very soft pencils/ carbon sticks/ charcoal/ chalks etc in your pencilcase.

  27. lesley webster says:

    I am a teaching assistant at a primary school and would appreciate any of these as I use one with each pupil for them to keep their sight words in, a valuable aid to reading, very important I am sure you will all agree.
    Many thanks in anticipation.
    PS I used to get them from our local chemist but they no longer develop films and so am really desperate.

    • Julia Singleton says:

      Lesley, do you still need film canisters?

    • ali says:

      Hi Lesley,

      I have some of these for you if you can still use them…

    • Linda Schultz says:

      lesley webster wrote:

      I am a teaching assistant at a primary school and would appreciate any of these as I use one with each pupil for them to keep their sight words in, a valuable aid to reading, very important I am sure you will all agree.Many thanks in anticipation.PS I used to get them from our local chemist but they no
      longer develop films and so am really desperate.

      Do you have an address to mail canisters?

    • J.Wright says:

      Hi Lesley, we have about 30 I could send now and could send a dozen or so every few months. Please send your address if you still need them, thanks

      • guri123 says:

        Hi, I saw your post and I know its an old one but I was wondering if you have any film canisters left. Im looking for black preferably but as long as its opaque I’m not too fussed about the colour. I will reimburse your postage costs. Thanks

  28. PAUL says:


  29. vicky says:


  30. jane says:

    We also use these pots in our secondary school electronics lessons. They are perfect for holding an individual quantity of solder for the pupils. Unfortunately, they don’t seem to last too long due to the close proximity of a soldering iron!
    Any spare cannisters will be greatly appreciated by our pupils (and the teachers!)

  31. Anonymous says:

    Hi Janet

    I am desperate for these for the children at my primary school – we use them loads in science lessons. Please please please save some for us!!!!!

    A fellow Wright,


  32. c5 says:

    Tape several together in a round form. Label a number in each canister with the center as the highest. Think of it like a dart board but then, at a distance you try to shoot a marble to aim the highest (bullseye) score.

  33. carolyn says:

    You could also donate them to your local Girl Scout/Guide troop. We use them to make SWAPS when we go camping.

  34. Marcie says:

    Our art teacher uses them for paint. They hold just the right amount for student art work. You can send them to us (I’ll personally re-imburse the postage). Please contact me at

  35. Christian says:

    They make good “micro” size containers for geocaching.

  36. Bobbie says:

    I’m almost embarrassed to mention how I use them. Oh well, honesty is best, right? I stuff one of the “thin” sanitary pads in one for emergencies and carry it in my purse. That way the pad doesn’t slide out of my purse and make me turn very red. lol

  37. Peter says:

    you can use them to make a film canister cannon instructions are at!-Advanced-Version!/

  38. Ray Mondo says:

    Use 35mm canisters as important insulating element in DIY solar lights (best nearer the equator):

  39. Ralph says:

    If you have clear ones, you can send them to me. I use them to store coins for my collection. (I started using them while I was in Berlin during the early ’90s…scarfing them up from photo labs…and now have several thousand).

  40. HuntingWabbits says:

    Container for:
    Hair gel
    Nuts, bolts
    Mini-First aid kit (Band-Aids etc.)
    If you paint and label them, they can be a pill organizer
    Herbs, Spices
    Barbie shoes
    Buttons, pins, etc
    That marble-dart-board thing
    Party favors
    Little rockets
    Not-so Nerdy pocket protecters
    Hair Pins/ties
    cat toy
    Christmas decorations
    Just carry an empty one around in case you need to store small objects
    Stuff a plastic or thin fabric bag in there

    Some more ideas:

  41. Alomar says:

    Give them to the military we us them for apexes in our tool boxes. Any support section would love to have them.

  42. mary lou says:

    I am an avid gardener for orver 40 years (am 72). I always carry several of these and empty medication vials in the trunk. I never know where I can pick up extra seeds and have a container for them instead of a kleenes tissue which I might later discard unintentionally. They have a label on them and I can query the donor with details, such as when to plant, how to take care of them etc.

  43. Kim Bishopp says:

    I’ll take any clear cases going free and am happy to pay P&P costs, I use them for storing crafts bits and bobs and want to use them for dividing up beads for classes, email me at for an address! Would be very very grateful!

  44. Amy says:

    As a photography student who adores 35mm film i use tons of these and only recently have started to recycle them into pinhole cames for extra long exposures, called Solargraphs. using only a drinks can, needle and photographic paper [ i use ILFORD RC black and white paper, 5×7 sheets will do

    Here is how to make a pinhole camera out of a 35mm canister:
    [take no notice of the development stage, you just need a dark room, or bag to put your photographic paper in the tub]

    Here is the info on Solargraphy: [scroll down to solargraphy part]

    and Here is the result of my first ever solargraph:
    this is the negative, which is how the photographic paper looked staright out of the can:
    This is after digitally scanning in and inverting on photoshop.

    I attached my pinhole to a lampost, or anything that stays still, using cable ties [zip lock ties], and left it out for 2 weeks, with the pinhole looking straighht at the sun, the paper wil record the paths of the if left out for long enough, and the best thing about it is that there is no development needed, once the paper has been exposing for a few days the image begins to burn into the paper.
    have fun :)
    if you need any more information email me at

  45. kim says:

    If your a painter like I am they are the best for storing paint. It keeps it from drying out. I also just made a scuplture out of them!!

  46. The most obvious use is for storage, and ideally utilising their canisters built-in airtight qualities (keeping things dry). To that end there are a number of small electronic items that could benifit from being stored in such as USB sticks, electronic components (capacitors, resisters, diodes), and particularily small items that are prone to rusting.


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