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Because You Asked

Can I Recycle Air Filters?

By Recyclebank |

Recycling HVAC filters could be more trouble than it’s worth, but a reusable option might be right for you.


Dear Recyclebank,

The HVAC in our house requires air filters. They do not seem recyclable, except maybe the cardboard frame we can tear off. Any greener alternatives? Saving money would be an added plus. I would not mind the trouble of washing and reusing a filter, so long as it is safe and effective in the HVAC.



Dear E.,

Professionals advise changing your HVAC air filter at least every 3 months, so if you’re following their advice, you’re dealing with dirty, dusty filters several times a year. A sustainable option would be keeping these filters out of a landfill.

The most common disposable HVAC filters are made out of woven fibers, typically polyester or fiberglass, and sometimes paper. The recyclability of these materials outside of an HVAC filter is hit-or-miss. Polyester fiber, in the form of clothing, is recycled to a limited degree. Fiberglass is not recyclable. Of course, paper is recyclable, and the cardboard frame is recyclable. But regardless of the materials within, we don’t advise close handling of that dirty filter, even in the name of the environment. It’s full of the dust and particles that you wanted to avoid exposure to in the first place! The safest route is to carefully place it in the trash, cardboard frame intact.

Reusable filters, such as those from WEB, are actually an available greener alternative. Their performance is on par or slightly better than the cheap disposable options, but at about ten times the cost. They could save money in the long run since they can last for several years, and reuse could save a dozen of unrecyclable filters from ending up in a landfill. If you don’t mind taking the trouble to wash them, and if you take precautions to avoid exposure to the dust, reusable filters could be right for you. Just make sure you let them completely dry before putting them back into your system, to avoid mold or bacteria growth.

Angie’s List

Do you use reusable air filters in your home? Share your advice and experiences in the comments below!

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  • Tina B. 3 years ago
    I'm trying to find a way to repurpose the dirty used AC filter- like maybe using it under the gravel @ the. Ottom of my outside flower pots? I'm not talking about the cardboard only the fiberglass or polyester. Any ideas?
  • mary B. 3 years ago
    If you have an air condition "you gotta have a filter".Keep that baby clean and save Money on your power bill !
  • Xenia D. 3 years ago
    The maintenance men in my apartment complex come in & vacuum mine clean every month. Seems to be working just fine.
  • Barbara C. 3 years ago
    I don't have an air conditioner, but that photo looks a lot like the filters we had in our old furnace back in the '70s. The furnace service man told us that he used to just vacuum the dirty filter for his own home furnace, and he then re-used it, because it was a lot cheaper than buying new filters twice a year. We tried that, and both the filters and furnace worked fine. It certainly is worth a try with your air conditioner filter, too.
  • tommy b. 3 years ago
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