Beer cans have only one purpose, right? To hold the brew until you drink it. After that critical mission is complete, most folks, at least those who care about the environment, toss the can in the recycle bin or save them to exchange for cash at the nearest scrap-metal dealer. But others find ways to recycle the aluminum cylinders by turning them into apparel, cameras or even art. Here are some of the coolest.
The crochet-and-beer-can hat is a common sight at beer festivals, but one artist from Tacoma, Washington, created a niche by using only cans from U.S. craft breweries instead of the more-common cans from bigger brewers. Many craft breweries have hopped on the can bandwagon because the containers are more portable, more recyclable and impervious to light, which can “skunk” a beer’s flavor.
“Some people say this is sculpture but I didn’t go to no expensive school to get these crazy notions,” said John Milkovisch, the man who decided in 1968 to cover the façade of his Houston home and its yard in beer cans and bottle tops. Milkovisch passed away in 1988, but the “Beer Can House” was acquired by a local nonprofit and restored. Did he drink all the beer in those cans? “No,” his wife, Mary, said. “I helped.”
Lazy people in a forest toss empty beer cans onto the ground. Creative people turn them into pine cones first. French artist Sally Ducrow did just that when she contributed to a show in 2012 at the Oranki Art Environmental Park in Finland.
Choosing a Christmas tree can be tricky. Fir? Spruce? Beer Can? Yes, the owners of Philadelphia’s Percy Street Barbecue built a different type of tree for the eatery’s dining room, eight feet tall and made with 400 beer cans. But would all those empties discourage Santa from leaving a six-pack under it?
Butterflies are delicate creatures, even when their wings are made of aluminum. The beer-cans-turned-butterflies in artist Paul Villinkski’s exhibit at a New Orleans art gallery seemed real enough to flutter.
Pop the top and say cheese. U.K. photographer Matt Bigwood created pinhole cameras from beer cans for a project he undertook outside his child’s school. Best not use this method for your wedding photos, though. The exposures took six months and required a bit more technical knowhow than what you’d find at the local drugstore photo counter.
You can’t fly these beer-can airplanes, but apparently making the models fashioned after classic biplanes is a popular hobby, judging by the number of Google hits for “beer can planes.” With enough time on your hands, you could build a fleet of them and pretend that you’re dive bombing bars that serve crappy beer.
Every year since 1974, the Lions Clubs of Darwin, Australia, encourage people to save their empties and turn them into a seagoing vessel for its annual Beer Can Regatta competition. “Seagoing” may be a generous description, though. Some of the beer-can boats flounder and sink before even leaving the starting gate, but it’s all in good fun and the money raised goes back into the community.
Opera fans are well aware that “it’s not over till the fat lady sings,” but bored spouses dragged to the show can amuse themselves by trying to count the beer cans in her bustier. It took more than five years for New York-based Greek costume art designer Nikos Floros to create a 14-piece collection of opera costumes fabricated from beer and soda cans. Ok, the results of the painstaking creation were not actually worn on stage, but it was said that the apparel could hardly be distinguished from fabric. Turns out, making corsets and other pieces of clothing is a legitimate pastime for some.
A lot of folks like to hit the easy chair with a cold beer after a long workday, so why not have that chair constructed from beer cans? The chair may not be as comfortable as a La-Z-Boy, but at least it’s recyclable.