16 ways to use empty film canisters

6
1575

One environmental downside of digital photography is the amount of e-waste created when older cameras are disposed of. Cameras and smartphones contain all sorts of useful metals that can be recycled – but also heavy metals such as lead and cadmium, which are very toxic.

The issue of e-waste has become more pressing as consumer electronics have become cheaper and more disposable. Mountains of poisonous e-waste have been created across the globe, from west Africa to China.

Most film cameras don’t contain anything near the amount of electronics, and many of them are possible to repair – if spare parts and a talented repairer can be found – but film photography does come with some environmental issues aswell. Not just some of the toxic chemicals used to process film – but plastic.

Plastic pollution has become one of the environmental concerns of the 21st Century. As the recent BBC wildlife series Blue Planet II detailed, every year some eight million tonnes of plastic waste are created, and much of that finds its way into waterways and eventually the ocean. Larger plastic debris is ingested by seabirds and mammals, causing internal injuries and starvation. Smaller parts are mistaken for food by smaller creatures, and the toxic effects of all that plastic is magnified further up the sea chain. Turtles mistake plastic bags for jellyfish – which can be fatal.

With the launch of Kosmo Foto Mono this year, I’ve potentially added to this tide of plastic waste. The pots that the film cassettes are housed in are recyclable, but not everywhere has plastic cycling (and not everyone is strict about the recycling).

Those plastic pottles have many uses outside of storing film, however. Here’s a few ideas to use yours once you’ve popped your film into a camera.

1) Store screws. Need to keep screws of a certain size together? Slap a label on them and you’ll never spend a half hour trying to find them again.

2) Waterproof matchbox. Film canisters make a good waterproof container for camping matches.

3) Travel first aid kit. They’re the perfect size for keeping a few painkillers and a plaster or two – or a day’s dose of throat lozenges.

4) Battery holder. You can fit two AA batteries side by side in a 35mm canister. Avoid stacking button cells together, though, as they may react and leak.

5) Spare parts. If you’re halfway through a camera repair, stick the spare parts in a canister.

6) Cat toy. Fill a film canister with rice, and – hey presto – a homemade cat toy (Kosmo Foto will be trying this one out over the break)

7) Foreign coins. I use film cans to keep euros or Turkish coins safe until I’m heading back to the continent/Istanbul. A few film can canisters full of coins in your hold luggage is a lost less hassle than emptying your pockets time after time in an airport.

8) Slip-on flash diffusor. Cut a slit in one side of the canister lengthways, and slip on to the pop-up flash on an SLR/DSLR to bring down the flash strength for portraits etc.

9) Seedling pot. Start off a seedling in a 35mm pot, and transfer to a bigger pot.

10) Fishing accessories. Saves fingers getting barbed by stray hooks, fits in a fishing vest, and floats if it’s dropped.

11) Earplugs and earbuds. Stop loosing ear buds in the depths of your bag – pop them in a film canister.

12) Donate to a homeless shelter. Film canisters are much in demand by homeless shelters, at least in London, because they’re perfect for decanting one portion of toiletries like shampoo for those using the showers. I sell some of my spare canisters of eBay but regularly give them to the Whitechapel Mission in London.

13) Travel sewing kit. If you’re on the road for a while – and not staying in a hotel where this kind of thing is free – you can fit enough needles, spare buttons and thread for emergencies.

14) Travel toothbrush holder. Keep the business end of a toothbrush clean by cutting a hole in the lid of a canister, and pushing the toothbrush through.

15) Ice cube maker. Create a drink-cooling large-scale icecube with a film canister. Remember to wash the canister out thoroughly before putting water in. Most canisters are made from high density polyethylene (HDPE), which while isn’t technically food-safe plastic, doesn’t leach harmful chemicals; if it did, they might ruin the film itself. Kodak itself says “there are no “toxic residues” in Kodak film containers […] if a customer chooses to use a Kodak film container for other than film storage, the container first should be thoroughly washed with soap and water”. Which leads us to…

16) Lunch box salad dressing. January’s coming up, and if you’re reducing the Christmas layer with a healthier diet, chances are you’ll be taking home-made salads into work. Put the dressing in the film can – and you’ll save that salad getting soggy as it sits in the fridge.

I’m sure there are dozens more – I’d love to hear what other suggestions the film community have too.

Be they Kodak or Kosmo Foto, Fuji or Ferrania, Lucky or Lomography – make sure you don’t chuck your film canisters in the bin when you’ve finished with them.

6 COMMENTS

  1. My primary school teacher friend used the 30-odd film canisters I donated as mini-shakers for one class. I think they put beads inside.

    Also, small plectrums fit in an APS canister and it doesn’t roll.

  2. Traveling pill bottle, air tight paint bottle, food container for camping (sugar, salt, coffee,cocoa, condiments etc.), punch holes in top for salt shaker and have an extra for moisture proof storage, small boat flotation,

  3. These ideas are great! I use mine to carry around art materials for my sketching bag – water for watercolor painting, mediums for acrylic painting, and pieces of charcoal and conté crayon for sketching.

  4. The translucent canisters can be made into a diffuser for built in flashes. Simply cut off the bottom and then cut the canister open down the long side. The gadget can be carried on the camera strap. They eventually break, but are easy to replace.

  5. I recycle most old film canisters for storing odd and ends. Keeping the photography link they are very good for storing SD cards..

Leave a Reply