We all know how it is, we want to recycle and do our bit to be green and eco-friendly but it’s not always easy. You seem to accumulate rubbish like package and old food cans quicker than you can sort through it, but there is good news! There are ways to recycle old cans that could not only save you from all that recycling into different tubs, but also keep the kids entertained, save you a few quid, and give you a cheap and simple way to customise your home, adorning it with cute containers, fun flowerpots, happy herb gardens, or even pretty pots for your jewellery, makeup and and anything else you can think of.
Take a peek at these fun ways to recycle old cans – be green and get the kids involved all at the same time!
37 Ways To Recycle Old Cans
1 – DIY Cutlery Holder
As far as ways to recycle old cans go, this one is pretty genius. You only need a handful of materials and a few hours of time and you have the perfect thing to put in the centre of the table to hold the cutlery for when guests are around, enjoying your culinary delights.
You’ll need six cans, enough spray paint to cover them in your desired colour (although we love this bright blue pop), a piece of wood to act as the centre-piece, and a leather strap which easily could be ‘stolen’ from an old bag you were going to throw away. Or an old your bag your mother won’t ever notice is gone…
The construction is very simple, and there’s an easy tutorial you can follow too. You could even consider having this as your cutlery drawer, leaving it spare for more takeout menus!
We can’t get enough of it and have definitely added this little DIY project to our list of things to achieve this summer. We’ll totally get around to it eventually…
2 – Tin Can Camping Mugs
This is perhaps one of our favourites way to recycle old cans, especially with the beautiful summer coming up.
Well, what we’re hoping will be beautiful summer anyway.
Recycle your old cans by spray painting them whatever colour you feel like painting them, bend an old fork (which you can easily pick up at boot sales, second-hand stores, charity shops, etc.) and screwing them in place.
What do you have? DIY recycled tin can mugs that are just perfect for going camping with. And you know they’ll come in handy for all those festivals coming up… Making these will give you something to do when you can’t go out because you’re saving for the price of a ticket! 😉
3 – DIY Table Numbers
Do you own a restaurant? Do you have a wedding coming up? Perhaps you’re planning a big event with multiple table numbers and were wondering how to display those table numbers? Or even names of guests? There is literally no end to the possibilities here. These cans have numbers on them, but there is nothing to stop you from using a stencil of a full name, punched in dots just like these, making it the perfect (and super cheap) way of decorating a table.
You could have your house number in these tin cans, filling them with flowers, pebbles, or anything else you wanted. You could put seeds and nuts in them, hang them from your front porch, and use them to display your house number and feed the local birds all at the same time.
There are so many ways you could use these recycled tin cans, putting them right on our list of things to-do!
4 – Tin Can Lanterns
Using the same hole-punch technique, why not spray-paint your recycled tin cans with a garden-safe paint and pop a taillight candle in to sit at the table while you’re enjoying the sunset with a few cheeky glasses of wine?
Candles always set a romantic setting and the light from the flame will shine through the holes you’ve made to display whatever pattern you’ve punched into it. Plus they’ll be windproof too, protected by the tin can, meaning you won’t need to keep relighting them every five minutes.
Citronella candles are a great little addition to these recycled tin cans, reported to repel bugs with will inevitably come out and bite you while you’re trying to enjoy your glass of wine. Look at that – you’re killing two birds with one stone! Lighting and bug repellent!
5 – Indoor Tealight Candle Holders
The same tealight candles that you use outside on those balmy summer nights can also be used inside. Just paint the tin cans to match your interior decor, and use the dots to create whatever pattern on them would match. You could add swirls, florals, stripes, random dots, bigger and smaller dots, whatever you like really. The choice is yours. We’d highly recommend using a stencil to trace out your dots before you start making holes but even if you make a mistake, it’s not like you don’t have another tin can to use. Just eat beans tonight.
Turn the lights down and save some electricity in the evenings when you’re trying to relax in the bath, and have some scented candles to help aromatherapy your troubles away. These little lanterns are super awesome and with the high sides make them much safer than other types of candle holder. Just remember they might get a little hot to touch.
6 – Tin Can Towel Holders
This one obviously uses slightly larger old tin cans than your average bean can, but you could replicate the same sort of idea for flannels and other bathroom bits and pieces for the smaller cans too.
Attach them to the wooden backboard and paint everything in the right colours. Use material or even wallpaper and a glue gun to cover the cans in your desired decorations and you have something that no other house will have – this will be completely customisable to you, an actually pretty easy to do at home.
7 – Hanging Flower Basket With Recycled Old Cans
What a great way of growing some plants, flowers or herbs while space-saving at the same time?
A hanging flower basket is one of the most brilliant ways to recycle old cans, and it’s so simple, we can’t believe we didn’t think of it first!
You drill a hole through your can, attaching them to each other so that they are staggered on a long piece of rope. You can paint them and label them so you know what plant is growing in what can, and then attach them to a hook in the back garden.
They’re easily moved inside if the weather gets really bad, making them even greater still, and you could even just add more cans as you go. Alternatively, hang each can from a brand new piece of rope, each rope a different length, giving you an option to once again add more later on if you wanted to.
There are plenty of herbs you could grow like this – basil, mint, thyme, chives, rosemary, lavender, parsley and more. You could even use this as a great way to start a small nursery for flowering plants which you’ll later move to bigger pots or their own garden space. The possibilities are endless, and we can’t wait to see what smashing ideas you come up with too!
8 – DIY Tin Can Lampshade
This one uses a slightly bigger recycled can than your average bean can obviously, but why not use it as a customisable lampshade? A drill can be used to make the holes but just make sure you mark out the spots with a permanent marker first. Doing this free-hand (especially the first time) will result in something that doesn’t look halfway near as good as you think it will.
There are actually a few tutorials we’ve found to replicate this kind of look, and just like everything else we’ve shown you on this list, it’s completely customisable to look exactly how you want it to look.
9 – Rustic Herb Planters
While we’re on the topic of herbs, we love these indoor varieties of tin can herb planters too, spray painted with a beautiful rustic copper colour with rope and black labels so you know what you’re growing…
And then cutting off and adding to your food!
There are plenty of health benefits attributed to a number of the herbs you can easily grow in plants and pots like this, so perhaps its about time you took a closer look? Plus the kids will really enjoying planting them and watching them grow afterwards.
We think it’s a pretty smart way to get them thinking green from a young age – they’re growing things, recycling things, being creative. Technically you’re killing a whole bunch of birds with one stone. Smart, multi-tasking mama at her finest! 😉
10 – DIY Tin Can Christmas Tree
Okay, we know it’s a little early for Christmas but we’re sticking it on the list anyway because we think it’s pretty awesome. Another great project to do with the kids on those rainy days, and we all know Britain gets enough of them, a few pom moms and some spray paint could be all you need to turn them from screaming, bored brats into busy little artists.
Or you could just let your own creative side free and do it for them. Because we all know it’s better when mum does it and secretly mums love a bit of arts and crafts too!
11 – DIY Plant Pots
We’re ignoring the obvious when it comes to recycling your old food cans – simply drilling some holes in the bottom, painting them pretty colours, and using them to plant various flowers around the garden. What better way to use them than just a run-of-the-mill plant pot? It’s about the same size as a regular plant pot, plus you can always decorate it however you like, painting it all one colours or letting the kids paint them in all beautiful colours, designs and styles.
It’s a great way to bring some colour into the yard even if you don’t have flower beds, and you’ll be amazed at how many beautiful flowers you can grow from such a little tub.
You could even go as far as to grow foods within these planters – herbs are great for small cans and if you have bigger ones, you could even looking at growing a tomato plant. Those are pretty resilient so will grow some way in the smaller planters but eventually will need transferring to a larger pot if you want a decent ‘harvest’ from it.
12 – Artistic Finishes
These pots could be whatever you wanted them to be – holders for toothbrushes and toothpaste in the bathroom, a container for cutlery for the outdoor table, somewhere to put your makeup brushes when you’re not using them, a pot for herbs and other small plants to grow in… In fact, you could use these for pretty much whatever you wanted, and they could be completely customised with different colours to match your decor, or a different quote that you quite like.
It’s actually easy despite how funky the finished product is. You need grout and miniature tiles, plus some small letter cut-outs. Add the grout, put everything in order, wait for it to dry and give it a good clean and you have the perfect little container. You could even do the lid as you can see here too.
13 – Techie Pen Holder
This is another ways to recycle old cans that we feel the average geek or tech-lover would absolutely adore. You know those cheap wraparound USB keyboards you can pick up from places sch as eBay and the local 99p and pound stores? Well, it’s been wrapped around an old food can to give you this look – a little geeky, a little techie, and definitely organised!
If you’re trying to clear up the kids stuff, or you’re sick of nagging your other half to put all his pens and bits away when he’s done working at home, this is a great way to start the cleanup operation.
Another trick we like to use is to threaten to throw things away if they’re not put away. Sometimes we even do it and that causes a right disaster, especially when we’ve thrown away his favourite pen! 😉
14 – Multi-Can Holder
We’ve shown you pretty simple designs so far, cans used in their most basic form covered with paper or materials, painted or sprayed to match decor, interior and exterior. For this one, we’re making things a little more complicated, glueing empty food cans together to create a multi-can holder like this one.
Cover the cans first, or paint them, and when they’re dry, use a hot glue gun to fix them together in a design that suits you. We like the way the insides of the can have been painted or covered here, something you’ll need to think about if you’re going to have them on view where you can inside, and then store whatever you like in them, from pencils and stationery like you can see here, or beauty stuff, jewellery, your keys…
15 – Simple Art Formations
You could just keep things simple with your old cans and recycle them by cleaning them up, giving them a good polish to make them shine, and arrange them in decorative and unique art formations for the walls of your house? At leas then you’d be able to say that you’re the only person with that particular artwork on your walls – it would be one of a kind just for you!
We love this design, and you could use the cans to form any shape you liked. You could think about moving them around so that they form words, maybe even creating phrases such as ‘Live, Love, Laugh’, etc.
You could add a photo to the bottom of every can, maybe even think about using these cans or even smaller tuna cans, to create some sort of family tree on the wall.
It certainly would be a brilliant way of showing off the family photos, albeit on a slightly smaller scale. In fact, we think the idea is so genius, we’re going to have a bash at it ourselves.
16 – DIY Cake Stand
In case you didn’t know, this fabulous looking cake stand has been wonderfully hand created using two old plates and an old food can, glued together and then painted, glossed and finished to proudly display your best baking beauties.
You can pick up old plates from pretty much anywhere these days – your local charity shops and boot sales are full of them, and we all eat food out of cans from time to time. Not just perfect to use as a DIY cake stand, you could put this display stand next to the kitchen sink to keep all the cleaning implements or bottles of washing up liquid and hand soap together. You could also use it as a way to display photo frames on bookshelves and wall shelves, and even next to the bed to stand a lamp on. There are hundreds of ways you could use this in your house, and the fact that it’s recycled just makes it even better!
17 – DIY Can Candles
We do love a good candle and one thing we love even more is a DIY candle. You know the odd ends of candles you always seem to have? Especially with those bigger candles such as Yankee Candles – there always seems to be so much wax left behind that you could almost make brand new candles out of it. So why don’t you?
We always burn vanilla candles so when they’re done and all burnt out, we scrape the wax left int he jar into a container an when we have enough, make brand new candles in our old food cans and jam jars. You could even buy wax online to make your own, adding your own fragrances. These make for great DIY gifts and we’ve even tried this trick ourselves when we’ve ‘forgotten’ to buy birthday / anniversary / Christmas gifts.
18 – Bird Cans
We love the little birds painted on these cans, and if you’re not quite artistic enough to pull off something quite so delicate (like most of us here), you could always use cut-out prints of birds and Modge-Podge them over a white-sprayed empty old food can.
Whenever you’re using old food cans like this, make sue you give them a really good rinse out first. Even if you’re just going to use it as an old plant pot, you’ll want to make sure it’s clean before you do anything with it, and that any rough and sharp edges have been filed down to make sure no one get hurts too.
19 – Tuna Can Candle Holders
The average tuna can is abut the right size to replicate this look – a wall of tealight candles which make for the perfect addition to any outdoor area. These ones have been drilled into and are hanging by string, but you could always affix them to a solid backboard so it can be moved to the various areas of your garden when you need it.
Moveable lights – great idea, right?
These ones have been covered in a pretty material but you could cover yours with wallpaper, scraps of paper, anything you like really. You’ll just need to take the fire risk into account and make sure nothing is left dangling that could get warm and / or catch fire.
You couldn’t do this with bigger old food cans because the candle would be too enclosed on its side. The metal of the can would get too hot and this could pose a fire risk.
20 – Recycled Tin Can Flower Wall
We absolutely love this idea – using old recycled tin cans hanging on the wall to grow flowers in for the summer. With the addition of a couple of drilled-in holes at the bottom of a can, you have the perfect thing to grow flowers in, plus other things too…
You could grow herbs in these DIY recycled tin can planters, or even start a small nursery for plants needing to be relocated to bigger pots later on. If you attach the tin can planters to a wall, you can easily move the structure inside if the weather turns bad too…
It’s a great idea.
21 – Recycled Tin Can Bird Feeder
Paint your recycled old cans with bright stripes like this one, turn it on its side, cut a half-section out of one end, or cover it with tape or something similar to stop the seeds and nuts pouring out and what do you have? A great DIY bird feeder that you could hang make multiples of, and hang from different branches on the tree.
Another great project to enjoy with the kids, be careful with the sharp edges, and if you’re not confident about cutting sections of the can itself, simple cover one end with one of those lids you can get to cover cat food but cut in half, making sure to keep it in place with the help of a hot glue gun. This is a great way to teach the kids about taking care of wildlife and the environment, whilst giving them some birds to watch first thing in the morning. You never, it might just keep them quiet for twenty minutes!
22 – Mini BBQ Cans
This one isn’t so kid-friendly, recycling old tin cans into miniature BBQ’s which personally, we think is a genius idea.
You wouldn’t be able to make much of course, these BBQs are super tiny. But for those moments when only a BBQd hotdog will do, we reckon this DIY tin can BBQ is a great idea. What do you think?
23 – Tin Can Man
What about recycling old cans into a garden ornament or feature, just like this super cute and utterly adorable tin can man?
It wouldn’t be too difficult to make, and you could always customise them to use the old tin cans you have from the kid’s spaghetti and beans.
This one would be a great one to make with the kids, especially with the up and coming summer holidays. Give them some marker pens to help decorate it, or event them loose with paint if you dare. And when they get bored of it or not longer want to play with it? Dismantle it, paint the tin cans and use them for planters for herbs and small flowers of course!
Recycling at its greatest! (And cutest!)
24 – DIY Tin Can Clock
We think this is a genius way to recycle old tin cans, not that we like our alarm clock much. An old tuna can is the perfect size for a miniature clock, and with the addition of some feet (which could be bottle tops by the way) and some spray paint to make it look all pretty with, you have the perfect materials for your very own DIY clock.
You could either pull apart a clock that no longer works and you were going to throw out anyway, or you could buy a clock-piece. You can pick them up for a couple of quid from places such as Hobby Craft or even online.
25 – BBQ Breadsticks Can
You know when you go to serve up those breadsticks at BBQs and you realise you have nothing to put them in so you either leave them in the box, or you put them in a cup / glass before apologising to the guests at the table? Well, this smart way of recycling old cans is a perfect solution for that.
You could modge-podge the tin-cans with material or paper and cover with gloss so that it matches the rest of your decor. You could paint them. You could let the kids paint them. And what makes it even better is that they’re recycled so when they get a big bashed up, or the material starts to peel off after you clean it, you can just throw them away or have another go at jazzing them up again.
26 – Can Cake
Do you know what a tin can is? It’s the perfect size for making a one-person dessert, that’s what! Instead of throwing away your old tin cans, why not recycle them into moulds for miniature desserts?
You could make cheesecakes, Victoria sponge cakes, whatever you liked in fact. They’re metal so safe to use in the oven. Just remember they won’t be microwave-safe so don’t think about making any of those super-easy BBQ cake recipes we’ve spotted on Facebook.
27 – Tin Can Garden Lanterns
Lights instantly liven up any space and the garden is no exception. The right lighting has the potential to change your back yard from a dark and dingy space to one you, your friends and your family will want to socialise in. Fairy lights on strings around the tops of fencing and walls are a great addition, and for a more upcycle, rustic feel, use old cans instead – they’ll rust a little over time and fit right in with the green garden theme.
If you already have old fairy lights that have seen better days, why not add them to your tin can garden lanterns like you can see here? It’s simply a case of making a hole big enough in the bottom of the can for the lights themselves to sit, and adding a pattern using cut-out shapes or dots in the side of the can. When the sun goes down and the lights come on, you’ll thank yourself for your genius idea!
28 – Tuna Can Drawer Organisers
Another great one for those little tuna cans you can’t seem to do anything with – why not spray paint them, cover them, colour them, do whatever you like to them, and then use them in drawers as mini organisers? As you can see here, they’re perfect for stationary but more than that, these would be perfect for jewellery, makeup, anything else you like.
Just make sure you give them a good clean out before you use them, make sure any rough edges are nicely sanded away, and they’re painted to match (or not) your decor. Who said organising your home needed to be difficult or expensive anyway?
29 – Embellished With Gems
We love anything that sparkles and we absolutely fell in love with this beaded / hemmed beauty – a simple old food can covered with a coloured grout (you can add food colouring to it) and flat-sided gems (which we’ve spotted in places such as Wilkinsons) pushed into it, creating this beaded container which could be used for anything from makeup brushes to pens, and even kitchen implements if you have big enough jars and cans.
Another great DIY project you could do with the kids, it doesn’t take long to create little wonders like this, and with more containers you might just persuade the kids to put things away. And if not, at least you’ll have kept them entertained for an afternoon with things that sparkle.
30 – DIY Utensil Holders
Another genius way to reuse and recycle old cans, these old food tins have simple been affixed to a wooden backboard, screwed to the wall, and then used to hold all the utensils that don’t fit in the drawer in the kitchen. The best thing about this idea is that you could go with any design you liked – you could have more cans to hold more utensils, and you could even have all your cutely on display on the wall, freeing up that drawer completely. If it’s space-saving you want, this is a super idea. How many of us use all the wall space we have at our disposal?
If you’re going to replicate this look at home, make sure that whatever you cover your cans with is glossed over. The moisture of the kitchen may ruin the labels or other materials you use to cover and decorate.
31 – DIY Mini Bowling
How cool is this? It’s probably one of the coolest ways to recycle old cans that we’ve seen and we won’t lie, we’ve made a similar version of this for the office when things get a little stressful. We know, we know, we’re all big kids at heart.
The tin cans are just washed and painted, and you could paint yours with whatever colours you like, and the ball could easily be made with papier mache, or you could buy a small foam ball to do the job instead. Either way, this is guaranteed to keep the kids entertained for hours and even as an indoor activity when the rainy days arrive, it won’t prove to be too destructive. Unless the kids start throwing cans around of course.
Using the same idea, you could also use a similar method to set up a mini carnival scene for the kids this summer. Remember the coconut shy? Why not reenact a smaller, cooler and kid-friendlier version of that to keep them entertained?
32 – Back Yard Beer Holders
An easy way to recycle old cans, and a guaranteed way to keep your man happy in the summer while cooking up a storm on the BBQ are these back yard beer holders. A metal stake has been affix to the cans so they can be shoved in the ground. The cans at the top just happen to be exactly the right shape and size to hold your beer, ensuring it doesn’t get kicked over and wasted.
The best thing about these is that when you’re done with them, you can simply remove them from the ground and place them back in the shed or garage. You can take them camping with you, a great way to ensure ants and other bugs don’t get into your drink from the floor.
Alternatively, you could have fill these old food cans with DIY candles such as citronella candles – these are perfect for repelling the bugs!
33 – Can Cookie Cutters
Guess what size an old can is? Yes, that’s right, exactly the right size to make buns, biscuits, cookies, you name it. If you don’t have a cookie cutter and need one ASAP, just cut both ends off an old food can and you have the perfect solution.
Just remember to give the can a good clean out before you use it. You don’t want chocolate chip cookies with essence of baked bean.
There are other ways you can use recycled cans in the kitchen too. We’ve found some tutorials that teaches you how to use old food cans and shape them into whatever shape cookie cutters you need – rabbits, hearts, flowers, you name it. If you can bend the metal, you can make the shape from it, giving you even more ways to make fun and fabulous food.
For more details, check out the tutorial HERE.
34 – DIY Pin Cushion
This one would make a great gift for your nan, or for someone else who likes sewing, knitting and general arts and crafts where pins are necessary. You could get the kids to help you make this one (helpful hint for Grandma’s birthday), and you don’t really need much to get it all started.
The old can is the perfect size for a pin cushion, and you need to fill it with sponge material to hold the needles, cover it with material, and make sure it’s all sealed so nothing can come out. There are plenty of tutorial online to give you a helping hand, and you could customise it anyway you liked. You could even go as far as to use PVA glue mixed with water to form a lacquer, and then use small photos of the kids around the base and exterior of the can.
35 – Tin Can Rose Bouquet
We can imagine this task would probably be pretty dangerous, cutting up old tin cans – we all know how sharp they are. We’ve all had cut fingers! However, we can’t help but think these tin can rose bouquets are beautiful.
This is simply a case of cutting the metal down into petal shapes before affixing them together in the shape of a rose. Watch your fingers, and make sure you file down those rough and sharp edges so they won’t slice them open.
We’ve actually found a few helpful tutorial on making this tin can rose bouquet for yourself, and you can find the full instructions HERE.
36 – Tin Can Garden Folk
We’ve all got garden gnomes in our gardens but what about these tin can garden folk? How many of you can say you have some of those?
These are a great way of keeping the kids entertained throughout the school summer holidays, giving them a project to do outside in the sun whilst being creative, arty and green all at the same time. Recycling old cans has never been so much fun, and with a few accessories such as beads, you too could have the cutest family of tin can people!
For a real smart little trick you could actually use those smaller tuna cans as miniature planters, encouraging hair or cat nip to grow (as well as chives, cress or other easy-to-grow plants) to look a little like hair.