Congratulations if you are one of the millions of people across America that enjoy the benefits of filtered water.
Even better if this is part of your effort to lessen your carbon footprint on the world because you can now avoid drinking bottled water and creating its associated plastic waste.
Keep in mind though that there is a good chance that your water filtration system will need to have its filter cartridges changed regularly. If you just toss these in the trash when they are used up, your greener footprint on the earth just took a hit.
That’s because many water filtration system manufacturers design their filter elements to be recyclable. That fact may leave you asking yourself how and where to recycle water filters.
This is a topic I am about to go over with you in more detail, so you can better keep doing your part to cut down on needless plastic and other waste.
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What to Do with Old Water Filters? How and Where to Recycle or Dispose?
The fact that you would even make the effort to attempt to recycle your used water filter cartridges says a lot about who you are. Even the little things that we as Americans do as far as recycling goes sets up better prospects for future generations.
So, what is the best way to start the water filter element recycling process? Here is how I recommend that you go about doing that:
Step 1: You first have to find out if the manufacturer of your particular water filter has a system in place to help out with recycling your used filter elements.
The best way to go about doing this is to research online to see if they do this or to place a call directly to their customer services department.
Step 2: If you find out that the answer is yes, then ask them for a set of instructions on how to do this. The method they use to get worn-out water filter cartridges back to them may even be laid out in your owner’s manual.
Some manufacturers have this process so streamlined that they will even send you a prepaid envelope in which to send back your used filter elements.
Step 3: Don’t worry if you get a ‘no’ answer because all is not lost. You can still try to recycle your old filter cartridges yourself. This is a little more time-consuming but worth the effort.
Do this by trying to determine what type of plastic your used-up filter cartridges are made of. The best way to go about doing this is to find the resin stamp that is usually placed somewhere on a filter element’s shell.
It’s easy to spot because this number will be surrounded by 3 arrows (see examples above). Once you determine what type of plastic your used filter cartridges are made of, then call your local recycling center to see if they handle that type of plastic and how you need to prepare it for recycling.
If you don’t know where your local recycling center is or one that can handle the type of plastic that your water filter elements are made of, then go to a website called Earth 911 and use their search feature to find the nearest plastic recycling center.
Step 4: There is a distinct possibility that the type of plastic that your water filter elements are made of cannot be recycled in your area. If this is the case, then you will have no choice but to dispose of your old filter system cartridges in the trash. You will still have the peace of mind of knowing that you tried.
Systems with Multiple Filter Elements that need Replacing
Step 5: Keep in mind that some filtration systems such as the best reverse osmosis filters will most likely have more than one type of filter that will need to be replaced and the old filters subsequently recycled.
It may even be the case where these are made of different types of plastic and some of the filters in the system are recyclable through the manufacturer while others are not. In that case, you may have to follow several of the steps mentioned above.
Companies That Offer A Recycling Program
It may disappoint you to know that many water filtration device manufacturers do not have a system in place to recycle used filter elements. Here are some of the more responsible companies that do:
You should also be aware that not all companies that recycle household water filters do it in the same manner.
Some put the burden and cost on you while others will give you discounts and incentives on replacement filters to encourage you to go through the effort it takes to recycle your used water filters.
I get asked all of the time if it’s ok to clean and reuse water filter cartridges. This makes sense when you consider that such water enhancing systems as RO filters have a backwash cycle that helps to keep them clean.
The problem with cleaning and reusing is the level of cleanliness that you can obtain by undertaking this process. There is a good chance that no matter how hard you try, you will never get the filter elements close to 100% clean.
Not to mention that you will have to take the filter elements apart to do this and many are not designed in a way that’s easy to do without breaking them.
So, while cleaning a filter cartridge may get you some extra use out of it, you may also have stirred up some harmful trapped impurities in the process and you may only get a little extra use out of the cleaned filter element which makes it hardly worth the effort.
Simply put, I never recommend that you try to clean and reuse the critical filter elements that enhance the quality of your drinking water.
Here is a company that has long been one of the most proactive when it comes to recycling the used filters that have been replaced on their water filtration devices.
They do this in conjunction with a recycling company called TerraCycle®. A company that offers many national recycling solutions that help keep Brita’s and other companies’ products out of landfills and water systems.
Here is the process for sending in a used Brita filters to TerraCycle® for recycling:
Step 1: First, be sure to dry your used Brita water filters out for several days (at least 2 to 3). Then wrap it in a plastic bag before shipping.
Step 2: Unfortunately, you will have to collect 5-pounds of filter cartridge waste before sending it to TerraCycle®. Don’t let this put you off if you are truly interested in taking better care of the environment.
Step 3: Lastly, go to the Brita website and sign up for the ‘Brita Rewards program’. Join the program and then you will be able to print free shipping labels to send in any type of used filter element that comes off of Brita water filtration devices.
This even includes the quality shower head filters that the company makes.
More information on this can be found by following this link to a page on the Brita recycling program that’s done in conjunction with TerraCycle®.
This company actually has two easy ways to recycle the tap water filters from its filtration systems that have been replaced. The first has to do with the fact that they too have also partnered with TerraCycle® the same as Brita.
So, you can simply follow the instructions above for how to recycle a Brita water filter because the steps are the same since they involve the same recycling company. The only difference is that you will have to join the Pur® Recycling Program.
The company also makes it no secret that the cartridges in their Pur filters are made out of #5 plastic which is polypropylene.
This just happens to be a type of plastic that Preserve, a Massachusetts company that makes a wide variety of products out of recycled #5 plastic is very interested in obtaining.
They accept tap water filters in a partnership with national natural foods distributor ‘Whole Foods’ to keep polypropylene out of waterways and from being buried in landfills.
This partnership has produced an ongoing project which they call ‘Gimme 5’. Part of that is they have set up special recycling bins at all of the Whole Foods stores across America to collect and recycle products that are made out of #5 polypropylene plastic.
The only catch here is that they ask that you take the filter guts out and dispose of anything that’s not made of plastic. Be careful when doing this because there may be trapped bacteria and other harmful impurities trapped in the activated carbon filters that are being removed.
That’s why I highly recommend that you put on a pair of latex gloves for doing this and wash your hands and rub with alcohol after completing this task.
How to Recycle Water Filters from Zerowater
This is a tap water filter manufacturer that will handle the entire filter element replacement process for you. All you have to do is go to their website and obtain and then fill out a filter recycling form. The shipping address of the company is also found on this form.
If you send in two used filter cartridges, the company will reward you with a $20 off coupon on your next purchase of a 4-pack of replacement filters.
GE Home Appliances
At one time, this company was at the forefront of refrigerator water filter recycling. This dates back to a decision that the company made in 2011 to help with the water filter recycling process.
They even included a postage-paid stamp with the purchase of each new refrigerator water filter replacement cartridge.
After doing some extensive research, it’s hard to get any information on whether the company’s refrigerator water filters recycling process is still in effect. I have been told by some in the know that it no longer exists.
That would be sad news from a larger size company that claims to be environmentally friendly.
Recycling Refrigerator Water Filters
Most likely you will have to take steps to recycle your refrigerator’s used household water filters yourself. It was already mentioned that it seems GE no longer has a filter element recycling program and Whirlpool terminated its recycling program a few years back too.
It never hurts to give the customer services department of your refrigerator brand a call just to be sure.
If the answer is no, your best bet is to strip the used filter down so only plastic remains, identify what type of plastic it is, and then find a nearby recycling center that can handle recycling that particular type of plastic for you.
Where There’s a Will There’s a Way
In this day and age, almost everything in America can be recycled. There are few exceptions to that rule. As far as water filters go, it’s usually not a matter of if but how.
Some water filtration system manufacturers make the recycling process very easy, while others are completely hands-off and leave it all up to you.
If you are dealing with the latter, then you will have a tough choice to make as to whether or not you go through the time and trouble to recycle your used up water filters.
That’s not something that I can advise you to do or not because I don’t know how much free time you have or whether or not you like to lead an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
If your water filtration manufacturer does not have a system in place for recycling the filter cartridges on the unit that needs to be replaced, then I would also encourage you to write to them and tell them how dissatisfied you are with this fact.
The ‘squeaky wheel gets the grease’ and if you are into recycling, if there are enough complaints, it may cause your water filter manufacturer to put a filter recycling process in place and make your life easier in return.