Don't Throw Your Trash Can Out with the Trash!

As the city prepares to make the change to automated trash collection, with new cans being delivered across the city, you're probably wondering what to do with your old trash can(s). Though many ideas hinge on being able to get it pretty clean, and some involve a bit of elbow grease, they're still worth a try to keep all that plastic out of a landfill. If your trash can is plastic, and is labelled with a recycle symbol and a #1-7, or is made of a recyclable metal, consider dropping it off at the recycling center. If not, or if you would rather make use of it further, try these ideas:

Two particularly earth-friendly uses for a no-longer-useful-as-a-trash-can trash can are as a rain barrel and as a compost bin. As another writer has already covered the latter in a previous issue of the paper, I won't go into detail there, but compost bins are definitely useful for anyone who gardens or just wants to do something better with a portion of their waste. Rain barrels are a great way to save two precious resources: money and water. Capturing rain in a rain barrel will allow you to water your lawn or garden for free and keep a bit of that storm water from burdening the sewer system. You'll need to cut a large hole (or a few small holes) in the lid of the trash can, cover it with screening (to prevent insects from entering), and install a spigot near the bottom for easy access to the water you capture. You'll also need to adjust your gutters such that water will pour from them into the barrel, which may require installing a new downspout. Once your barrel is assembled, you'll be able to harvest rainwater throughout the warmer months.

Many other ways to use an old trash can involve transforming it into a storage bin instead. If you have the means to cut it down in height, a can will be a good size for coiling up a hose. As is, they can be used for tools (gardening or otherwise), salt or other ice melting products, sports equipment, bulk pet food, garden amendments (soil, mulch, etc), or out-of-season clothes or blankets. Because of their relative tallness in comparison to other storage means, trash cans may also be useful to store items like brooms and mops or large rolls of wrapping paper left over from the holidays. Even if you can't get your can clean enough to want to put clothes or pet food inside, you should be able to store something in it.

If you do a lot of (or any) yard work and are tired of buying those huge brown paper bags, you'll be able to use your old trash can as a yard waste bin. Simply use it as you do the brown paper bags, putting it out on the curb on collection day, and label it as yard waste. And, lastly, if you'd rather not have to look at the thing anymore, find someone in another town who still uses privately purchased trash cans and give it to them. If you don't know anyone in particular who might want it, you can try posting it as a freebie on Craigslist or Freecycle, where someone is bound to have some use in mind for it. Whatever you choose to do, try to prolong the life of your trash can rather than throwing it away.

Read More on Conservation Corner
Volume 5, Issue 10, Posted 6:42 AM, 05.20.2009