Dear Recyclebank: Can you recycle rinsed and dried coffee filters? –Linda B.
Dear Linda: While you’ve got the right idea about trying to remove contamination by rinsing your filters, unfortunately, oils from the coffee grounds can still remain trapped in the fibers. This makes them unsuitable for the recycling process, as the oils affect the quality of the paper created. Because of this, recycling programs generally won’t accept paper coffee filters.
Don’t worry, though: There are still plenty of ways to put your old filters to good use. With careful rinsing, you should be able to use a filter more than once (this may affect the flavor of your brew a bit). If you have a compost pile, filters can be added along with your coffee grounds for a convenient solution to your disposal needs. Coffee filters are also good for a variety of household uses like polishing glass or packing delicate items. And to further reduce your coffee filter footprint, you can reconsider what kind of filters you purchase; look for ones that aren’t bleached, or ones made from recycled paper.
If you’re still concerned about the impact of your coffee habit, paper filters aren’t your only option. Try a reusable coffee filter made of metal mesh (make sure it’s compatible with your particular coffee maker). You could also use this as an opportunity to experiment with a different method of brewing coffee that doesn’t require paper, like a French press. No matter how you get your java fix, you have options to make your habit more environmentally friendly.