Can You Recycle Paint Cans? (And 9 Creative Ways to Reuse Them)

Our need for paints stems from the desire to adorn our immediate environment. However, it often happens that after the paints have served this purpose, these cans become a burden.

Typically, you need to dispose of them. However, like you, you might sometimes fail to consider the environmental impacts. Unfortunately, this reckless disposal can bring about significant environmental damage.

Well, that is why questions about recycling have become popular today. We bet you are wondering can you recycle paint cans. Well, we have got you covered.

In this article, we will answer the question, can you recycle paint cans. However, we will not just stop there. We will go further to answer other relevant questions and end with creative ways to apply your cans.

Dive in!

What Are Paint Cans?

Precisely, paint cans are steel container carrying paint, a colored liquid used to brush on homes and structure for adornment and other commercial purposes. We use tin-plated steel to make paint cans.

The paint can have different structures, all of which serve different functions. It has a thin-layered tin plate, which helps it resist corrosion. On the other hand, steel gives it strength due to the heaviness of the content it carries.

When one considers steel cans’ uses, it becomes easy to assume that steel paint cans enjoy a considerable degree of acceptance.

Are Paint Cans Recyclable?

YES, you can recycle paint cans.

Steel cans are the most recycled substance. We can then use recycled steel material repeatedly. Even more, re-melting the steel won’t degrade them.

Also, you expend less energy when you recycle steel than during the original or first manufacture. So, steel cans are easy to recycle, and as such, they enjoy wide acceptance from dealers in scrap metals and recycling companies.

However, try to get rid of every content, such that there are no leftover paints. This is because paint cans carry some elements which make recycling them not only dangerous but also impossible in some cases.

So, use up the paint in the can before you can think of disposing or recycling them. This method is both cost-effective and safe.

Unlike the general belief, empty paint cans cannot be trashed alongside other wastes when recycling. This is because of the hazard the leftover paints carry, especially the harmful chemicals they release on landfills.

In any case, always call the nearest recycling office to inquire if they even accept paint tins at all.

Some of the materials we can make from steel cans are new cans, building materials, and other steel products around us. In fact, the by-products derived from manufacturing steel are useful for road surfaces and filtration systems for wastewater treatment.

Are Paint Cans Harmful to the Environment?

First, we must state that the reason many recycling centers will refuse to accept paint can is simply the seriousness of the hazard it poses when recycling them and even where we don’t recycle them.

Normally, the processes involved in recycling may carry health dangers and other hazards. But, paint cans take these dangers several notches higher.

Due to the nature of paint tins, which are composed of thin sheets of alloy and steel, they pose a danger to our environment. Paint cans contain carbon elements, making them extremely dangerous to our environment and all life on earth. This carbon element present in empty paint cans increases the carbon in that air, contributing to climate change.

Also, these spray paints are typically under high pressure, which is why these empty paint cans cannot ordinarily be taken to garbage. So, these cans can explode when exposed to heat, especially when added to the garbage truck’s pressure. Little residue from the paint cans also poses a risk of diseases such as cancer.

But in the end, the question of whether paint cans are harmful to our environment cannot be answered with a yes or a no. This is because the paint cans aren’t in themselves harmful. Rather the content in them is the crux of the matter.

So, it is safe to say that “empty paint cans” are not entirely harmful to the environment when disposed of properly. And on the other hand, paint cans with residue are highly dangerous, either when recycling them or wasting away in landfills.


How to Dispose of Old Paint Cans?

Due to the hazard associated with paint cans, local authorities properly dispose of empty cans rather seriously. As such, it is important that you not only dispose of paint cans but also do so properly. So, how do you dispose of old paint cans? Let’s go over the steps.

First, confirm that the old paint can is empty. If you find any small amount of paint, no matter how negligible, endeavor to do away the content. Because of the serious hazard it poses, you must be careful in handling this.

Gently take away the lid and allow the paint to dry up entirely in a ventilated area. Typically, this should be within two to four hours. Another alternative is to obtain paint hardeners to dry out the leftover paint.

Once you do this, you can then take your paint cans to companies recycling paints. There are many of these companies, and they will be happy to take your paint cans for reuse. You can always check for them online.

Secondly, you can also submit your paint cans for proper recycling. The same paint recycling companies who can take up your paint cans for reuse can also take them for recycling. You can also go online to confirm the details and terms. You can also check with your local recycling center. They should tell you whether they accept empty paint cans, as many recycling centers routinely group paint cans with other metals.

Thirdly, you can place paint cans in the trash. An empty paint can or one with leftover latex paint can be disposed of with your trash. You can take them out on trash days or stake them to relevant waste management offices in your locality. Just ensure to take off the lid to make any leftover paint dry off.

Fourthly, you can take paint cans to Household Hazard Waste Drop-off sites in your area. Here, you can take items unsafe for disposal at home. Try to locate these sites in your area, as it is safer for you and the environment. This is because most wastes on these sites are usually taken for proper recycling.

Be that as it may, there are several incredible things you can do with old paint cans. So, what are these?

What to Do With Old Paint Cans? (Creative Ways to Reuse)

Here’s the fun part: creative uses of old paint cans.

But before we go on, we must remember that residual paint poses immediate health hazards such as cancer. As such, while exploring the creative use of old paint cans, we must always have this in mind.

Let’s get to it then.

1. Punched-Can Lanterns

You can turn your old paint cans into crafty outdoor lanterns. What has to do is punch some patterns by driving a nail into it. After this, paint the cans with different colors, preferably contrasting colors. Then place little tea lights or small candles inside, and you will have created magic – perfect candles for a patio party!

2. Hanging Planters

You can also turn your old paint cans into hanging planters. These hanging planters could be useful in carrying your herbs of flowers. Use a can handle to hang your empty cans on hooks, or you could screw the old paint cans into a fence.

3. Coat Hooks

You can also create cool coat hooks from old paint cans. These coat hooks can be in your mudroom, front entry, or some choice places where you hang your coats occasionally. You can affix old paint cans to these places. You may decide to paint them with fine colors and patterns or decide to give the location an industrial look and not paint them.

What’s more is, dog leases also fit the picture here, as you can hang them on the same coat hook from their handles. You can also drape your scarf on these coat hooks, store your gloves, and your mittens inside the can.

4. Spray Can Bouquet Art

Have you got a pile of old paint cans? This one is for you! Your old can lids finally have a use. You can craft unique sculptures by painting the can lid and then adding little painted wood dowels as the stems of the “flower.” You can then display your flower in a transparent glass vase.

5. Home Office Mail Sorters

Home office use is one of the amazing ways to reuse paint cans as storage solutions. Here, you have to line up cans on the shelf to sort mails. Just place a label on the can to identify the person or category of mails. This helps to keep your paperwork organized.

6. Lid Mirrors

Using paint lids for mirrors is another creative way to use old paint cans. You can create nice circle mirrors from paint lids. Get a mirror, spray paints with colors like gold or peach to reflect cool and class, screws, and recreate the finest mirrors.

You can also contact a designer to fine-tune the designs at a low cost.

7. Lady Bug and Bumblebee Feeders

Did you know that you can actually make fanciful bumblebee and even ladybug bird feeders from old paint cans?

You can paint a pencil and use it as a perch, paint washers as eyes, and make metal clothes netting and hangers as fashion wings. You can always find these metal clothes nettings and hangers at a craft store.

8. Jewellery Tin

Decorating empty paint cans with silk flowers, pearls, and ribbons are an innovative way to create a nice jewelry tin. You can place it at a girl’s bedroom or give it out to a new mom or shower gifts to a new bride that is very mindful or enthusiastic about DIY (do it yourself) products.

9. Trash Cans

Old paint cans are a great option as trash cans, whether as a wastebasket or regular trash cans.

Just wrap a pretty fabric as rope and the wind that ropes around the old paint cans in a small, classy receptacle.


Old paint cans pose serious hazards to human life and everyone. That much is pretty indisputable. However, this is only if you remain leftover paints and throw them away into landfills without care. Now, you know you can avoid such problems.

There are clever ways to dispose of the old paint cans and avert the potential danger they hold. Simultaneously, there are several creative uses of paint cans that anyone should be willing to try out. And that’s what we have shown you.

So, get going, and keep your environment safe.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.