Dear Recyclebank: Can water filters be recycled? I called my local sanitation department, and they were baffled and promised to get back to me. The specific brand name I have is Brita. They are plastic and filled with black sand. –Ila
Dear Ila: With niche products such as at-home water filters, it’s a good idea to check with the manufacturer to see if they have a mail-in program you can take advantage of. As it turns out, Brita has partnered with TerraCycle to take back used Brita products for recycling. This program is free to consumers who sign up, and includes a prepaid shipping label to cover your shipping costs. You can also gain Terracycle points for your efforts, which can be redeemed for charitable gifts or product bundles. Water filters aren’t the only items accepted; packaging, pitchers, and even reusable water bottles can be sent as well. The items are processed and turned into all sorts of new products, from gardening equipment to outdoor furniture. You can find out more about the program on the Brita and TerraCycle websites. Brita isn’t the only brand that has adopted this solution. PUR and Everpure have also partnered with Terracycle.
Other water-filter brands could be trickier. Manufacturers that run mail-in programs typically only accept their own products. And because of the activated carbon used in filters and the foreign materials filters can accumulate — to say nothing of the different plastics that may be found in various casings — many curbside programs may not accept such complex products for recycling.
Take heart that even if your water filter can’t easily be recycled, using one is still a significantly less wasteful choice than buying disposable water bottles. Brita estimates that just one of its filters can keep up to 300 plastic bottles out of the waste stream. That’s a step in the right direction. Still, if recycling your filter is important to you, use a brand that has a take-back recycling program.