Can Water Filter Cartridges Be Recycled? (How To Use Mail-in Programs)

One of the concerns people have with using water filters is the issue of recycling – after all, what’s the use of saving plastic bottles with a filter if you aren’t able to recycle it!

Water filter cartridges cannot be recycled at your typical curb-side pick or local drop-off recycling centers. Instead, water filters must be recycled through the original manufacturer and some companies have a mail-in program that allows you to send in old filters to be refurbished, reused, or recycled.

Read on to learn more about which companies have mail-in programs, how often you need to replace your filter, and other helpful advice!

Which water filter cartridge manufacturers have a mail-in program?

As I mentioned, the best (and usually the only) way to actually recycle a water filter is to mail it back into the original manufacturer so that they can refurbish it to be used again.

So, which companies offer a mail-in program for their water filters?

 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 other 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 recycling 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 many websites say Mavea has a mail-in program for recycling water filters.

But after checking on their official website, I can confirm that Mavea has discontinued their mail-in water filter recycling program.

They instead advise customers to check with their local municipals to see if they can 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 in the states and overseas rely on their filters to have clean and safe water. Everpure’s filters are made from high-grade aluminum and plastics which makes them easy to recycle.

They have a partnership with waste management, ensuring 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 household recycle waste, but this is not so. Filterete water station filters are made from carbon and plastic, making 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 the water, how contaminated the water is, how much water is consumed in the household, and 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 considered 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?

Using your recycling collection scheme for water filters won’t work 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 to manufacture water filters:

  • Activated carbon
  • Activated alumina
  • Ceramics

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 open up the carbon material’s pores, 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 common due to their inexpensive nature and their effectiveness in filtering out bacteria, dirt, and other debris in drinking water. Ceramic water filters are relatively inexpensive, making them a good choice for developing countries or even any budget-conscious homeowner in developed countries.  

Like the other filters, ceramic filters work by filtering out any contaminant 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.

Conclusion

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 companies have partnerships with organizations dealing with recycling.

Alternatively, you may want to find if your local authorities allow for recycling 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.

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