Reusing and upcycling tin cans

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Tin Can Cutlery Bins2_webMany food products and produce still come in tin cans of various sizes and while they, the tins, are – mostly – completely recyclables, as they are – predominately – steel, they also lend themselves extremely well for reuse and for upcycling.

As with glass jars the attitude of my grandparents and their parents, and, generally the majority of the people of that time, was that they had paid for the tin cans – and those were the days before there was recycling – and because of that as many as possible of them were put to reuse and were upcycled, although that word also did not exist then, the practice, however, did, before throwing them into the trash.

Reuse and upcycling of them came in many ways from the simple reuse of a can as s coop for chicken feed, for example, to more elaborate conversions. The Australian bushmen (nothing to do with Aborigines or the Bushmen of Southern Africa) were also real masters in the reuse and upcycling of all manner of tin cans.

Personally I always have to smile and almost laugh out loud when some people are so proud buying recycled steel pencil bins and such for quite a lot of money while they toss clean tin cans into the recycling bin, apparently incapable of thinking that such a can, in itself, can serve immediately as such a receptacle.

I have personally encountered such “green” contemporaries who were so proud of having purchased recycled steel pencil bins while, at the very moment of telling me, deposited a number of tin cans, which they had even washed out and the labels removed, into the recycling bin. When I commented on it they just could not get the message. What has gone wrong with the mindset of people?

Below a couple of ideas (of mine... there are more) and I am sure there are others who have more ideas still.

Storage Wall: Wooden board with various different sized tin cans attached to it by means of screws (and affixed to wall). Such a storage wall can be used for all manner of storage, even in the kitchen for utensils.

Billycans: Carefully drill two holes on opposite sides just below the rim, make fence wire handle, put the wire in through the holes and voila! One billycan. That's the way the Australian Bushmen used to make the first before billycans were made by manufacturers. OK. Your homemade one won't have a lid but so what. It is, after all, the way they originally were. The bigger the can, obviously, the better, in a way.

Drinking cups: Tin cans such as from condensed milk with either handle made from wire, such as softer fence wire or aluminum wire, or a tin handle affixed by means of wire, or solder.

Beakers: Use narrower and taller tins than those used for the little cups (above), such as those larger ones, and they often are olive drab color on the metal, in which tuna comes.

Desk Tidy: That is to say “pencil bins” made from tin cans. You can paint those, give a sleeve of denim or whatever else. Or you could, obviously, use them as they are, or use those that have pictures on them. Some still are that way instead of having paper labels. But even plain tin ones are fine, in my opinion. They also make an instant statement of a reuse mindset.

Storage for kitchen utensils: Same idea as for the desk tidy/pencil bins only that they hold cutlery and such instead (see photo above).

The above is but a small list, even of what I, on my own, could come up with, but there is so much more what can be done with tin cans of (almost) all sizes. While they are recyclable steel I still rather like to use them for something that will keep them even out of the recycling steam for longer than just tossing them into the recycling bin.

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