Upcycling Project no. 6: Turn Coffee Cans into Pretty Planters
5 billion aluminium cans are sold in the UK alone each year. 42% of these are recycled, but there’s still more to do, especially when you consider that countries like Finland and Switzerland recycle over 90% of the cans they use.
Aluminium is a valuable material and there are almost 300 places in the UK where you can recycle cans, so there’s no excuse!
The problems that aluminium mining causes
Mining aluminium causes problems for the environment and health.
Mining causes structural changes to land
Aluminium doesn’t occur naturally in the earth, it has to be extracted as ore, which is then mined and smelted. The land is rebuilt as much as possible but fundamental changes to the ground structure and surrounding environment do occur during mining.
Mining affects the environment
Mining the aluminium ore damages rain forests and the soil. Coral reefs along the coast of Jamaica have been damaged due to the spilling of aluminium ore when it is being loaded to be shipped.
Mining can affect the health of local people
Caustic soda is used to extract aluminium ore. In some areas in Jamaica, this has found its way into the water supply, and has increased the water’s sodium content. This has led to residents suffering from high blood pressure. Dust from the mining can also cause respiratory problems.
Why recycle aluminium?
Less energy is used
Compared to mining, recycling aluminium requires far less energy. Recycling it only uses 5% of the energy that mining does and produces only about 5% of the emissions. A recycled can produces enough energy to power a TV for 3 hours!
You need less raw materials
The more aluminium that is recycled and reused, the less need there is to mine the raw materials which causes damage to the environment.
There will be less waste in landfill
The UK only has about 9 years of landfill space left, so we need to keep as much waste out of landfill as possible.
It saves money
Aluminium can be recycled indefinitely, as its structure remains intact.
Is it easy to recycle aluminium drinks cans at home?
Most local authorities accept aluminium in recycling bins and boxes. Just make sure the can is empty and clean prior to collection, and you have put it in the correct bin!
But if you want to go one better than recycling, think upcycling!
Turn an old coffee can into a pretty planter
If you’re a big coffee drinker, and you get your coffee from a wholesale supplier for your workplace or your home, it will most likely be in a large aluminium can. Rather than throwing the cans away, why not think about turning them into some pretty plant holders for your house plants? Here’s how:
Remove the label from the can. Soak it in soapy water to loosen it and get rid of the sticky residue that sometimes gets left behind.
When the cans are clean and dry, spray paint them with a white gloss paint.
Using a 3/8-inch drill bit, drill a hole about 1 ½ inches from the top of the can, on each side. These holes are for fitting some handles.
Decorate the cans with whatever you have in your craft drawer, or whatever items you have left in your jewellery box. Seashells and buttons look great.
Create a handle for the planter. Feed some rope through the drilled holes and then tie a knot at each end on the inside of the can.