Ten Green Ways to Reuse, Repurpose and Upcycle Tin Cans

Gift BasketTin and aluminum cans are one of the many things that Americans use and dispose of, perhaps more than any other container. Therefore recycling is very important and by recycling you can save precious energy and natural resources. But before you send the cans to the recycling center, how about having some fun and figuring out some creative ways to reuse them before tossing them in the recycling bin.

Here are ten fun ways to reuse, repurpose and upcycle your tin cans.

1) Use old tin cans to make storage containers. The easiest and most common usage is to turn old cans into pen and pencil holders for your desk. You can spray paint them, cover them with scrapbook paper or let your kids decorate them with stickers. This is a super cheap solution for a problem many people have when it comes to their desks…wayward pens and pencils.

2) Turn tin cans into pretty gift baskets. Using a piece of metal wire or a pipe cleaner, a scrap of lace, a bit of wallpaper border and a piece of ribbon you can make a pretty Victorian style basket.

3) Create simple flower vases, flower pots or mini planters. You can spruce up the cans with spray paint and clear coat for protection. Make sure to punch a few holes in the bottom for drainage, then add a rock or two in the bottom for breathing room and add potting soil along with your plant and voila, simple, easy and cheap flower pots. You could create a whole tin can herb garden or a line of flowering pots on your porch or deck. Large coffee cans can make great planters for larger plants, especially for tomatoes. It’s an easy green way to garden economically when you don’t have a yard.

4) Create a decorative hanging flower display. String cans together with wire and/or brightly colored ribbon, or scraps of fabric and place flowering plants or floral arrangements inside. Hang from trellises, gazebos, fences, and poles for pretty outdoor party décor. Do you have a bare outdoor wall? You could attach cans directly to the wall for a very stunning wall container garden.

5) Create hanging luminary lanterns for summer parties. Add tea light candles or small votives and you’ll have a creative and super cheap green lighting for your outdoor celebrations. Just punch holes in the cans with ice picks or another sharp pointed tool. You can use specialty tools used for punched tin crafts or a large nail and hammer. Add wire to hang and you’ve got green lighting. If you are really good with metal you might be able to create pieces of art with metal cans like those at Metal Magic created by artist Lennie Kaumzha.

6) Make creative candle holders. Using the same basic technique as above you can create candle holders without turning them into hanging lanterns. Punch holes and designs into them or paint them with spray paint. Short, flat cans like those for tuna make nice tea light holders. Larger cans can be used to hold pillar candles. Big round cans like those for whole tomatoes can be filled with water and used for floating candles (just don’t punch holes in those cans!)

7) Use cans to help grow seedlings. The cans make great planters to keep young plants safe until roots are established. Cut both ends off of the can, dig out the hole in your garden, place the can in and then put the plant inside the can, then add dirt. After the plant has grounded itself, slide the can out from the dirt. If you have really large cans like the bulk commercial size you can leave them in the ground to help keep bugs and other pests away from your plants. I have gardening friends that swear by planting tomatoes inside large coffee cans and placing can and all in the ground.

tin cans
via FunintheMaking.net

8.) Create kid friendly tin can crafts. Robots, animals, or totem poles are just some of the things you can make with mismatched silverware, nuts and bolts, and metal bottle caps. You can add awesome accessories to your tin cans to create fun creations kids will love. At Funinthemaking.net they created an awesome koala bear from a couple tin cans and some leftover kitchen utensils.

9) Create a pin cushion. Use small flat cans like those from tuna or cat food, a handful of stuffing, a scrap of fabric, ribbon, paint or scrap paper, and hot glue and you have a super cute little pin cushion.

10) Have fun and games. Get nostalgic and make the old tin can telephones from way back when. You know the two tin cans and a string. Can you hear me? Anyone? Hello? Or you can make a catch game with a tin can by attaching a ball and a string and see if you can catch the ball in the can. Or forget the string and use two cans to toss the ball back and forth and see who can catch the ball the most.

These are just ten ideas for reusing tin cans.

What creative green craft project can you come up with using tin cans?

Written by Wenona Napolitano

Wenona is married with three crazy kids that range in age from 4 to 18. She is a freelance writer, poet and the author of The Everything Green Wedding Book.

She enjoys reading, writing, crafting and gardening. She tries to do all of these as "greenly" as possible.

Her writing has appeared in several local and regional publications, Pack O Fun, Today's Creative Home Arts, and Indiana Living Green magazines as well as numerous online sites including PlentyMag.com, EthicalWeddings.com, MyEcoChicWedding.com, eHow, Associated Content, Suite101 and Life123.com.


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