Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree For Under $5!

We started feeding our cats canned food recently, and I kept staring at the empty cans of food thinking “what a waste to just toss these in the recycling bin”. I had recycled a few tin cans into wall-mounted candle holders, but I wanted a way to reuse more of them. Then I had a brilliant idea: recycle the tin cans into Christmas decor! I made this recycled tin can Christmas tree for our entryway table and it’s perfect!

Recycle empty tin cans into a cute Christmas tree! Great way to recycle tuna cans or cat food cans!

This little tin can Christmas tree is so quick and easy to make, and it’s a perfect way to repurpose our empty cat food cans! Also, unlike other recycled projects I’ve done, I didn’t have to spend a ton of time removing the sticky label residue from the tin cans; it actually helped to LEAVE the sticky stuff on the can to hold the scrapbook paper on there. Bonus!!!

And, since the tin cans are recycled, this project is basically free! I spent $1 to get the ornaments from the dollar store and I already had paper and glue on hand, so the whole project cost me $1 and took about half an hour to make!

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree

Here’s what you need to make your own tree: (affiliate links below to the products I use and recommend)

  • 17 empty tin cans (tuna cans or cat food cans are about the right size)
  • colored or patterned holiday scrapbook paper
  • glue stick
  • hot glue
  • miniature ornaments and string to hang them (I found a tube of 15 ornaments at the dollar store that came with gold thread for hanging)
  • scissors
  • smooth edge can opener (so you don’t have sharp edges on your cans!)

I started with a bunch of empty cat food cans.

After slicing open a finger picking up one of the cans, I decided to use my smooth edge can opener to cut off the sharp edges of the cans. I seriously love this thing; it’s just a regular can opener but it takes off the sharp edges so you’re left with a smooth rim on the can. It’s perfect for crafting! I used it for my tin can snowman project and my tin can tea lights too!

After the sharp edges were gone, I cleaned the cans out with soap and water. The labels peeled right off, but I left the sticky residue on the can so that I could easily attach the scrapbook paper later. It doesn’t matter what the outsides of the cans look like because they will get covered with paper later, but make sure the insides are clean!

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree-5

Cut your paper into strips wide enough to cover the outside of your tin cans. For the cat food cans I used, that meant the paper had to be 1-1/2″ wide. I used a 12″ x 12″ piece of scrapbook paper and cut it into eight 12″ x 1-1/2″ strips.

Then I stuck one end of the paper strip to the sticky label reside on the can and pressed it on well.

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree-6

Then I wrapped the paper all the way around the can and used a glue stick to attach the other end of the paper strip to the can.

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If you don’t have sticky label residue left on your cans, glue both ends of the paper strip to the can itself and you’ll be just fine!

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree-8

Once all of your cans are covered in paper, it’s time to glue them into a Christmas tree shape! Lay your cans out on the table starting with one at the top, then two in the next row, three in the next, and so on. For a tree with five rows like mine, you need 15 cans for the tree itself, and 2 cans for the trunk.

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree-9

Using hot glue, glue your cans together everywhere they touch another can. I started with the top can and added two lines of hot glue near the bottom. Then I set that can down and pressed the two cans from the next row onto the hot glue. I worked my way down the tree, gluing on additional cans one at a time. Since the cans are circles and only touch at one point per can, it takes a little bit of time and care to make sure you add hot glue exactly where the cans touch. But it can be done; just take your time and go carefully!

Once you’re done with the tree shape, add two more cans at the bottom to make a trunk. Then you’re ready to add ornaments!

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree-10

Tie a short loop of thread through the top of your ornament. Hold the ornament centered in a can and measure how long the string should be to reach the top of the can. Add a very small dot of hot glue the string right at this point, then stick the hot glue to the top of the can.

Be very careful not to burn yourself on the hot glue! Use a toothpick if you need to in order to press the string and hot glue onto the top of the can!

Recycled Tin Can Christmas Tree-11

Once your ornaments are glued into all 15 cans in the body of the tree, use scissors to snip off the ends of the string, and you’re done!

Stand up your Christmas tree on a mantel or a shelf somewhere and enjoy!

Recycle empty tin cans into a cute Christmas tree! Great way to recycle tuna cans or cat food cans!

Want to share this tutorial with your friends? Just click any of the share buttons on the left to share with Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, etc.!

P.S. if you liked this project, check out these other simple Christmas crafts!


Jessi Wohlwend

I believe that anyone can do crafts and DIY projects, regardless of skill or experience. I love sharing simple craft ideas, step by step DIY project tutorials, cleaning hacks, and other tips and tricks all with one goal in mind: giving you the tools you need to “do it yourself”, complete fun projects, and make awesome things!

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Reader Interactions

  1. Jody says

    8 years ago

    I made six cat food trees and 2 meat pot. One is in my bathroom, one big on mantel and the others are gifts. Thank you for such a cute idea.

  2. Lindi says

    8 years ago

    Oh my! You are full of amazing tin can projects! I hope you come to share them 🙂

  3. Bess says

    9 years ago

    A old idea back to life and I love the way you did it. The red and white is very attrictive. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. Leah says

    9 years ago

    Another idea to make this mulit purpose would be to use more tins and hangs book page pouches with numbers on for an advent calendar.

    Or you could use clear baubles with treats/trinkets toys in. There are many possibel variations to the theme depending upon your decor, wishes or imagination. Once the treat has been taken out the pouch or bauble could be re hung and voila you have your ornament back.

    I don’t have kids but I would love to do this if I did.

  5. Kris says

    9 years ago

    This is like the one my mother made over 40 years ago. She used Tuna cans, at that time you could cut off both ends, and then hung ornaments in each can. She covered hers w/felt and used a block of wood for the tree stump. I always loved it and have been thinking of making another one for me. Thanks for the memory. Not a new idea necessarily, but a great remake of an old one…..Love the paper used.

  6. keri @ shaken together says

    10 years ago

    Jessi – this is SO cute and a great way to upcycle cans!! Love the hanging ornaments, too!

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