Apr 04 2009
You can’t argue with FREE, at least most of the time (my wise grandfather had something to say about free things). When I can recycle something that might otherwise be dumped in a landfill or burned in an incinerator, I’m chuffed. And what can be handier than a sturdy, water- and dust-resistant container? I’m talking about coffee cans—or should I say containers? Metal cans are an old stand-by. Even my grandfather reused them, and that was back in the days when the cans were opened with a supplied metal key, leaving a sharp edge around the top (he rolled them over with pliers). Now, though, my favorite everyday joe comes in plastic containers, rather than in metal cans with snap-on plastic lids. At first I didn’t like the switch from metal to plastic, but I’ve come to appreciate the rust-proof plastic “can.” As a java junkie, I buy a lot of the stuff, and cannot bring myself to throw away those cans. Fortunately, rather than cluttering up the dwindling empty corners in the house, these cans find employment for all manner of things.
One obvious way for bicyclists to reuse coffee containers is to put stuff inside them. So what if the smell of coffee lingers? These containers are great for holding items which can be greasy, leaky, sticky, or otherwise messy. That’s a fair description of the products needed for maintaining bikes, and when you’ve got a fleet of drivetrains to lube and bearings to maintain, you need a lot of oil and grease. And you need lots of rags, too (another recycled item—don’t throw out those threadbare t-shirts and tighty-whities!).
Jumbo coffee cans hold the larger cans, bottles and tubes of solvents, lubes and grease. They also store the glue gun and glue sticks, the grease gun, rolls of duct tape (it has a zillion uses) and other adhesive tapes, rags (clean and dirty, in separate cans), odds-and-ends of blown inner tubes (hundreds of uses), adhesives of all kinds, funnels, and cleaning supplies. And they can hold bike parts, too, from cables to handlebar tape, and spare blinkies to reflectors.
Small cans are great for the everyday lubes. Just tuck those small bottles and needle-applicators inside the can, stuff a couple small clean rags in there, and carry the can outside when the time comes to oil the chain and derailleurs. I also like to keep a toothbrush (another recycled item) with these supplies. The toothbrush is handy for flicking off any small amounts of grit or dust which get onto the bike but which isn’t so extensive or grungy that a full-scale cleaning job is necessary.
Speaking of full-scale cleaning, the plastic coffee containers are terrific wash basins. Use them to hold solvents when cleaning off ball bearings and small bike parts (a large dishwashing basin dedicated to mechanicking is better for large parts). Label such containers with a laundry pen so you don’t reuse the container for other applications.
I dedicate one large plastic coffee container solely for soapy water and use it for bike washing, and store the bike-washing cleaning brush inside the can when the job’s done. Because the can is molded with a hand grip, it’s easy to carry a half-full container of hot, soapy water outside while keeping one hand free for opening doors. The container is just the right size for this purpose. You can get both hands inside the can, and it holds enough water without wasting any. Because the container is plastic, it won’t rust, and it doesn’t leak.
The next time you empty a coffee container, don’t just throw it into the trash. Recycle it, instead—it’s FREE, after all. I’ve only mentioned a few ways the bicyclist might reuse them, and haven’t even touched on the other ways they can be put to good use around the house, for the car, and in the garage. I’ve just emptied a new one, so, now how shall I reuse this one…