February 1, 2023

Princeton Environmental Commission Chairs Offer Suggestions for Reusing Old Trash Cans

To the Editor:

Princeton will soon begin delivery of new trash cans to over 7,000 households and is scheduling pickups of old cans later this spring. Some residents may be looking for alternatives to throwing out their old cans, especially as not all the containers will be able to be recycled. In any case, reuse is viewed as far more efficient than recycling. What follows is a list of reuse ideas.

Use as storage containers: Garbage cans with lids make great storage for a wide variety of materials, including open bags of fertilizer, animal food (keeps the food dry and the mice out), compost, or even leaves or brush waiting for pickup by the municipality.

Use as a transport container: Trash cans can also make great containers for transporting the free compost and word chips available to all Princeton residents from the joint Environmental Facility on the Princeton Pike to your yard.

Use as a tool caddy/storage container: Trash cans are well suited for storing long-handled lawn care equipment such as rakes, hoes, string trimmers, and the like. Since many trash cans also have wheels and handles, they can also be used to move these tools around to where they are needed.

Use in place of a wheelbarrow: Depending on the size of your trashcan and its wheels, many cans make ideal containers for moving materials around, and are often more stable and easier to use than a wheelbarrow.

Use as a planter: By cutting off a section of the top of the can, a planter can be constructed. It can even be decorated if desired. Depending on the depth, it could be used to grow root vegetables, herbs, or flowers. The cut-off top could be used to make a small, raised bed. If the can has wheels, it can even be mobile.

Use in the vegetable garden: For those residents lucky enough to have the space and time for a vegetable garden, a trash can on wheels can make a great substitute garden cart for moving the harvest from the garden to the kitchen. And, turned upside down, can provide a working surface for garden chores.

Use as a rain barrel: Videos showing homeowners how to convert a trash can to a rain barrel with a few simple tools and supplies from the hardware store can be found online. One of the best DIY instructions is: bhg.com/gardening/design/projects/how-to-make-rain-barrel.

Use as a composter: Commercially available plastic composters are expensive. It is relatively simple to construct your own composter from a trash can for free. Again, there are many videos on this, to start try: youtube.com/watch?v=XZyox5yLiMU (short version) or youtube.com/watch?v=28nJ_LzgSMk (long version).

We hope that the households in Princeton will find these suggestions helpful and seriously consider reusing their old trash cans. Workshops and demonstrations on how to do rain barrel/composter conversions will be offered in the spring.

Tammy L. Sands
Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission
Winant Road

Anne Soos
Vice Chair, Princeton Environmental Commission
Hun Road