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Old Trash Cans for Rainwater Collection

Old Trash Cans for Rainwater Collection

If changes in trash collection rules have made your old garbage can obsolete or you simply have a spare can, put it to good use collecting rainwater. A 32-gallon plastic trash can is ideal for this, and if it has wheels, you can even move it as needed, according to Yankee Magazine’s fun book Panty Hose, Hot Peppers, Tea Bags, and more for the Garden.

The easiest way to turn a garbage can into a rain collector is simply to tuck it underneath a gutter with the downspout removed and fill ‘er up. You can get a little more efficient by positioning the downspout so it goes into the can. Keep debris out of the rain barrel by cutting an opening in the lid a bit larger than the downspout and feeding the downspout through the hole.

To prevent mosquitoes from making a home in the barrel and to keep even small leaves out, stuff an old pair of pantyhose into the gap between the downspout and the lid.

For more convenience, install a plastic spigot, available at home improvement stores, in the barrel. Drill a hole in the side of the barrel at least 12 to 18 inches above the ground–high enough to set a watering can underneath. Install the spigot according to the product directions.

If you want to get really high-tech, add an overflow barrel. Find a piece of leftover tubing of nearly any sort. Cut a hole in the side of the garbage can a few inches from the top; make sure the tubing fits very snugly in the hole. If you’re worried that water might seep out around the tubing, caulk it with some leftover exterior or bathroom caulk.

Set a second garbage can (this one doesn’t have to be quite as large) next to the first one. Cut a hole in its side an inch or two lower than the hole in the first can, and push the tubing through.

Adapted from Yankee Magazine’s Panty Hose, Hot Peppers, Tea Bags, and more for the Garden: 1,001 Ingenious Ways to Use Common Household Items to Control Weeds, Beat Pests, Cook Compost, Solve Problems, Make Tricky Jobs Easy, and Save Time (Yankee Books, 2005).

Read more: Home, Reduce, Recycle & Reuse

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Annie B. Bond

Annie is a renowned expert in non-toxic and green living. She was named one of the top 20 environmental leaders by Body and Soul Magazine and "the foremost expert on green living." - Body & Soul Magazine, 2009. Learn Annie's latest eco-friendly news on, a website dedicated to healthy and green living.


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11:51PM PDT on Apr 3, 2013

Your contents are progressing with days keep it up guys.
rubbish removal

6:36AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012

I find Kynthia R.'s comment amazing!!! You are not allowed to catch rain for free? You have to be joking! Is this in the U.S.? What happened to democratic rights?

6:33AM PDT on Jul 15, 2012


8:14PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012


2:51PM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

I do this!

2:04AM PDT on Jun 19, 2012

Unfortunately you need to consult local laws. In many cities it is illegal to collect rainwater as the water company "Owns" the rain. Setting up a collection barrel can get you a fine.

8:40AM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

Thank you

6:26AM PDT on Jun 18, 2012

Nylon screening works fine, held in place with bungee cord. I can't get fancy, don't have the money or energy.

9:24PM PDT on Jun 17, 2012

Thank you

9:16AM PST on Nov 14, 2010

Cool idea!

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