One of the concerns people have with using water filters is the issue of recycling – bottled water is often considered as the best alternatives because plastic is easy to recycle. And it’s a valid concern especially considering the over 2,600 landfills in the US that are leaving devastating environmental effects.
So, the question begs, can water filter cartridges be recycled?
Even though you cannot use the usual household waste recycle centers, there are some water filter cartridge manufacturers that have a mail-in program for recycling. But these manufacturers will only accept their brands. In other words, the question of whether or not you can recycle your cartridge will depend on whether your manufacturer has a mail-in program or not.
Which water filter cartridge manufactures have a mail-in program?
- Brita water filters
Brita is committed to keeping landfills free of pitchers, filters, dispensers, and bottles. As such, they have a partnership with TerraCycle to work directly with their customers in recycling water filter cartridges or any other of their products. They even have an incentive program that awards members points for recycling which can then be redeemed for awesome rewards. You can sign-up for this program on their website and you will get more details on how the program works.
- Mavea water filters
For a long time, Mavea was an industry leader in the recycling of used water filters. They even used to pay for the shipping costs to send your used cartridges to their collection points. That would explain why lots of websites say that Mavea has a mail-in program for recycling water filters.
But after checking on their official website, I can confirm that they have since discontinued their mail-in program. They instead advise customers to check with their local municipals to see if they are allowed to include the water filters with their usual household recycling waste.
- PUR Water filters
PUR has a partnership with RecycleNation to make it easy to recycle their water filters. RecycleNation focuses on conserving, recycling, and reusing to make wise living easy. To recycle your PUR water filters, go to the RecycleNation website, enter your ZIP code and you will get a drop-off location that is nearest you.
- Everpure Filters
Everpure’s recycling motto is, “sip, save, recycle.” According to their official website, most of the leading restaurants not only in the states but also overseas rely on their filters to have clean and safe water. Everpure’s filters are made from high-grade aluminum and plastics and that makes them easily recycle.
They have a partnership with waste management which ensures their water filter cartridges are recycled properly and safely. All you need is to get in touch with Everpure on their official website and ask for a drop-off location nearest to you and you can start sending your used cartridges there.
- Filtrete Water Station
The filtrate water station water filters are branded as disposable water filters. Most users take this to mean that they can be recycled with other households recycle waste but this is not so. Filterete water station filters are made from carbon and plastic and this is what makes them non-recyclable. That said, they have replaced lots of plastics and they are therefore still a green solution to clean drinking water.
How often should water filters be replaced?
As a rule of thumb, you should change your water filter after every 40 gallons of water or every 3-6 months. That said, it is important to follow the instructions from your manufacturer because not all water filtration systems are created equal. Also, the water filter replacement period might be affected by other factors like the hardness of water, how contaminated the water is, how much water is consumed in the household, as well as the brand of the filter.
Can I dispose of the contents of a water filter myself?
Some DIYers believe that you can recycle your water filter cartridges by cutting them open and dumping the contents in the recycling bin. There is also a notion that you can dump the charcoal from the water filters in the garden or walk path. This is usually thought to be a good solution if you use a water filter from a manufacturer that doesn’t have a mail-in program.
But there are two main problems with this solution. First of all, the cartridges are typically full of the contaminates they have been removing from your drinking water. So, if you rip the filter open, you might expose yourself and your loved ones to all kinds of health hazards. Secondly, the material used in the cartridges is typically not accepted in household waste recycling centers and neither is it safe for the environment.
What are water filters made of?
The reason why using your recycling collection scheme for water filters won’t work is because of the materials used to make them. Not all water filters are made equal – different filters are designed for different purposes. As a result, they are made from a bunch of different materials. The following are some of the common materials used in the manufacture of water filters.
- Activated carbon
Activated carbon, sometimes referred to as activated charcoal, is a special type of carbon that is processed to have low-volume pores which help to improve the surface area that will be used for adsorption.
Activated carbon has a high degree of microporosity and as a result, a gram of activated carbon has over 32,000 sq. ft. Activated carbon is typically derived from charcoal although it might also be derived from coal, in which case it would be referred to as activated coal.
The microporosity characteristics of activated carbon make it an ideal material for removing bad odors as well as suspended particles in drinking water. As contaminated water passes through the activated carbon, the contaminants are trapped in the tiny pores and this process yields clean and safe drinking water.
The carbon is usually activated by steam or heat. The activation process helps to open up the pores of the carbon material which is why activated carbon has a bigger surface area. Most activated carbon filters are made from carbon blocks, radial carbon filters, and granular activated carbon.
- Activated alumina
Activated alumina is made by dehydroxylation of aluminum hydroxide to end up with a highly porous material. Activated alumina typically has a surface area of at least 200 m²/g. Activated alumina does a pretty good job of filtering out selenium, fluoride as well as arsenic in drinking water but it is mostly used for filtering out fluoride.
Too much fluoride in drinking water can lead to fluorosis. Researchers from Harvard have also established that the presence of fluoride in drinking water could result in low IQ in children. Even though there are programs in the US that ensure fluoride is eliminated from drinking water, homeowners with private wells might need to take extra caution.
- Ceramic filters
As the name suggests, ceramic water filters are made from ceramic material. They are pretty common due to their inexpensive nature and also thanks to their effectiveness in filtering out bacteria, dirt, and other debris in drinking water. Ceramic water filters are relatively inexpensive and this makes them a good choice for developing countries or even any budget-conscious homeowner in developed countries.
Just like the other filters, ceramic filters work by filtering out any contaminant that is larger than its pores. The contaminants that can be removed by ceramic filters include bacteria, microbial cysts, and protozoa. However, ceramic filters may not be effective in removing chemical contaminants.
Before buying a water filter, it might be a good idea to find out if they have a recycling program for their used water filter cartridges. As we have seen, some of the companies have partnerships with organizations that deal with recycling.
Alternatively, you may want to find if your local authorities allow for the recycling of used water filtration cartridges. You might just be pleasantly surprised to find that they do. whatever to do, do not attempt to recycle water filter cartridges on your own by ripping them apart to dump the contents on the ground. This will not only pollute the environment but it will also expose you and your loved ones the contaminants that had accumulated in the cartridge.