How can I reuse or recycle ground coffee cans?

coffee cansWe’ve had an email from Chelsea, who has very nicely been pimping this site to her family:

I told my mom about this site and she asked if there was anything about coffee cans. She saves all the ones she has, and just uses them for storing nails and such. Any better ideas?

In the UK, most coffee tends to come in either jars or bags but we’ve got some old Illy cans knocking around from before John discovered our fab local coffee supplier, the Just Coffee People (if you’re in Leeds, you should really try it – coffee fans tell me it’s great from there and we also heart the tea – and if you read the about page you’ll see it’s a great Social Firm too. Anyway, where was I? Oh yes..). The Illy cans either came with a screw top lid or a rubber cap, depending on the size of the can, so have way more reuses than a standard more-difficult-to-reseal food can.

Like Chelsea’s mum, we use them for nails etc in the cellar, storing other teas & coffees in the kitchen, a pen pot in the office upstairs and I’ve got two in front of me in the living room right now working as money boxes for our spare change. I’ve also used the screw on lids as saucers under plant pots – they’re silver and quite deep so look fun.

Any other suggestions?

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16 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle ground coffee cans?”

  1. anna says:

    Store ANY dry food items or spices on them, and add a label to find what is in them. So pasta, flours, lentils, spices, … seeds for planting, edible seeds, you name it.
    The more coffee containers of the same size you have the better it will look.

    I also like using some pretty and big coffee containers to flower pots. Use a nail or a screwdriver or something to make a few holes on the bottom, and add some small stones on the bottom of the cans to keep them well drained.

  2. Roman says:

    I was listening to National Public Radio the week of 05/18-05/24 and one man’s story about his father’s use of old smaller coffee cans was really touching. He stated that when he was young, in his father’s cluttered garage, there was an accumulation of old coffee cans. After suggesting that his dad stop buying the small cans and start buying the larger ones for the sake of space and waste management, his father told him, as a dad might, to more or less mind his own business. Many years later, on Memorial Day, his father asked for and received a commitment from him to plant flowers. They met up and put flowers in all the cans and then took them to the cemetaries of many of the influential people he’d met or that helped him out or took care of him in his life; each grave being the introduction of a person lost but not forgotten, as a way for his dad to tell his life story in a secret tradition.

    Thought it was pretty amazing.

    I’d only be concerned of what might happen to them after they’re removed from the graves.

  3. laura says:

    I use a coffee can to put food scraps in under the kitchen sink until I take it out to empty in the compost bin in my backyard. It’s big enough to fit food from a day or two and it seals well, so you can’t smell the food getting funky in there before it fills up and gets emptied.

    • PainChaud says:

      I use a coffe can too, but one made of plastic, that I keep in the fridge so it doesn’t stink up too fast.

  4. Cliff says:

    With a few holes in the bottom (hammer and nail) coffee cans make a good small watering can!

  5. Cassandra says:

    If you remove the bottom With a can opener)and hammer it flat, you will end up with a cone sort of shaped thing, you nail em to the post, fill ’em with dirt, and grow som herbs!

  6. Rich says:

    Urm… Don’t buy coffee in cans???

    Just a thought – we bought one can of Illy about 6 years ago and now we buy it in bags and just refill it…

    Saves you about 2 quid a can as well

  7. Pattie says:

    My children and I enjoy turning those coffee cans into planters for our outside garden. We clean them, paint them, poke holes in the bottom for drainage, and plant flowers in them. Cheaper than buying pots and great for reycling the cans. Can also be resued the next year. Hope you liked the suggestion.

  8. Mollyh says:

    Rich, where can you buy Illy in bags? I was going to suggest this too – and keep the bag to take back to the store to refill. I’d love to know where one can get Illy as loose beans rather than in a can; I’ve yet to find a coffee that I like as much!

    • Lucia says:

      Is there a bar in your neighbohood using Illy? You can ask the barman to buy beans from him: they buy huge quantity, I think you can manage to have your tin filled by him for a cheap price, also.
      I know, maybe it’s difficult, I mean, I am writing from Italy and I would be advantaged if I would do the same…

  9. Just Staci says:

    In the winter time,I make alot of homemade soups and stews,so I can pass some on to other family members.As long as the cans are’nt rusty,use them to put soups and other foods in them.Then,you won’t have to fuss with people to bring your tupperware back!

  10. freya says:


  11. I used 8 Illy cans and a flat piece of wood to build a small shelf over my espresso machine:

    I’m thinking that one could expand this into a more elaborate shelving system that could take up a whole wall or something. Also, for added stability one could use soldering a iron to solder the lid to the bottom of the can so that you end up with small modules you can easily join together

    and looking forward to pictures of your deeds!

  12. Sanctus says:

    Well, some people use it as a directional antennas to boost wireless, or to pack small things. For example, my kids keep their pencils in exactly the same Illy can.

    P.S. I was looking for such a site for a long time. You’re added to my Google reader!

  13. Claudia says:

    I am a science teacher in middle school and we use them to dispose of broken glass. When full, we can then throw the can in the trash bag without worrying about them cutting the bag or our custodial staff hurting themselves on the glass chards…

  14. Nicky says:

    I would use these for tea lights in the garden, punch some holes around the can/tin, put in a tea light or small votive candle and display them in the garden, would look great for an al fresco party or meal etc, i have a bunch of these too and will be doing this for the garden, I willalso use for storing pasta etc, great little things

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