A coffee tin is already a storage container, so recycling it is mostly a question of, cleaning it, deciding what you want to put in it and making sure it's in appropriate shape for that use. For example, if it's going to come into contact with water or dampness -- and most kitchen and workshop containers will, sooner or later -- you might want to coat it, inside and out, with a spray enamel to prevent rusting.
Coffee tins can be useful in workshops for containing hazardous materials, such as paint thinner and other solvents. The plastic lid protects against spills and keeps the potentially harmful vapors from escaping.
In the kitchen, you can use a recycled coffee tin to recycle another resource: pan drippings. Drippings -- the fat left over from cooking meat -- are loaded with flavor, and cooks have been using them for centuries to give savory weight to dishes. But it can be a messy process without a good container. The coffee tin makes it easy. Set a coffee filter over the opening of the tin. While pan drippings are still hot, pour them through the coffee filter into the tin. (The filter removes the large particles of food, which will scorch if cooked later.) Put the lid on the coffee tin and pop it into the freezer so that the grease solidifies. The next time you need a bit of cooking fat, you can easily scoop it out.
Coffee tins are, naturally, terrific food storage containers, especially for dry goods. They're lightweight, they stack well and the plastic lids provide a good barrier against pathogens and staleness. If pantry organization is a problem, you could use coffee tins -- painted in different colors and labeled -- to create a bright, modular set of storage bins for baking ingredients. Coffee tins are also a useful way to manage any food that typically comes in an unstackable sack: dry beans, rice, popcorn, bulk cereals.
Chances are that the kitchen isn't the only area where you have a lot of loose things you'd like to contain. On the next page, we'll look at how to use cans to organize your office.