Knowing where you can recycle used refrigerator water filters can be a confusing process. Many manufacturers or retailers have stopped their free water filter recycling programs and many recycling centers don’t take fridge filters. So we’re here to help, and have put together everything you could possibly want to know about recycling refrigerator water filters, which brands make it free and how much recycling kits cost.
Can refrigerator water filters be recycled? Refrigerator water filters can be recycled for their carbon, plastics and metal. Brita and PUR have free fridge filter recycling programs and some recycling centers accept them. RecycleWaterFilters and TerraCycle have paid recycling options that cost from $4.99 up to $96.00, allowing you to mail multiple filters at once.
Below we’ll go through the main manufacturers of refrigerator water filters and what the recycled materials are used for. We will also detail some free recycling options, as well as a full price breakdown (with many options) from two online recycling programs.
Can refrigerator water filters be recycled?
When you buy a new refrigerator, one of the last things you may think about is having to replace the water filter, which on average, is about every 6 months.
Refrigerator water filters help remove unwanted contaminants from drinking water. While these filters ensure water from your water dispenser or ice maker remains safe to drink, unfortunately it is another waste stream that can quickly add up.
Although many people just throw water filters out with the trash, which usually goes straight to landfill, many of the fridge filter materials are recyclable, and some can be recycled MANY TIMES OVER.
One of the most surprising things I found was how few manufacturers provide free recycling programs for fridge filters. In this day and age you would almost expect recycling them to be standard and an easily accessible service, but I have definitely found this to not be the case.
This doesn’t mean you should give up however, as you can in fact recycle ALL TOP BRANDS of refrigerator water filters including:
- Aqua Crest
- Aqua Crystal
- Aqua Fresh
- Best Choice
- Denali Pure
- Fisher & Paykel
- Pure plus
- Swift Green
- Zuma Filters
- AND MANY MORE!
Recyclable materials from refrigerator filters
Refrigerator filters are made of many different recyclable materials. The filters can have different plastic or metal casings as well as being filled with activated carbon.
All of these materials can be separated, recycled and turned back into many usable (and saleable) products.
Used activated carbon can be cleaned and then commercially regenerated (re-activated) many times over, allowing it be be used again and again. The recycled products are often used for:
- Contaminant adsorption in commercial facilities (e.g. waste disposal areas)
- Treating contaminated groundwater
- Removing vapors and particulates from other adsorption media
Plastics are first separated from fridge filters, sorted and then pelletalized. These plastics can be made into an almost endless number of different products. Some of these products, including park benches and outdoor furniture, can then be recycled again (twice recycled). The list below is just scratching the surface when it comes to what can be made from recycled water filter plastics, but it gives you an idea of how versatile it can be:
- Plastic toothbrushes
- Razor handles
- Cutting boards
- Park benches
- Outdoor furniture
- Bike racks
- Watering cans
- THIS LIST COULD GO ON FOREVER!
Aluminum is a common metal used in some refrigerator water filter casings. Aluminum is a highly sought after metal and one of the most recyclable of all materials.
Aluminum is easily recycled back into itself and doing so saves more than 90% of the energy needed to make new metal aluminum. It loses no quality during the recycling process allowing it to be made into many more recyclable products.
FREE recycling programs
Many of the FREE water filter recycling programs, previously started by water filter manufacturers or retailers, have unfortunately been discontinued. These include recycling programs that many people came to rely on, including:
- Whirlpool’s Refresh & Recycle Program
- General Electrics (GE) Recycling Program
- Everpure’s Water Filter Recycling Program
However, there are two water filter recycling programs that accept refrigerator water filters and are still in existence… YES!
People who have Brita or PUR refrigerator water filters – You’re in luck.
Brita Recycling Program
Once you sign up for the Brita recycling program, you get a TerraCycle recycling box and a shipping label (valued at around $96.00), which you can use to send multiple refrigerator water filters (and other Brita water filters) off for recycling.
PUR Recycling Program
The PUR recycling program involves you going onto the RecycleNation website, putting in your location and hopefully identifying a drop-off location in your area. If all goes well, you can drop off your refrigerator water filter(s) for recycling and keep these products out of the landfill.
Where can refrigerator water filters be recycled?
Refrigerator water filters DO NOT get recycled if you put them out for your regular household recycling collection.
Your local recycling center MAY take them, but you should always give them a call first to double check.
If you don’t fall under one of the FREE recycling programs (Brita or PUR) and are stuck with an increasing number of fridge filters, there is a paid option.
For a small fee, the recycling facilities below offer a very simple way to recycle your fridge filters. At least using this method, you can organize it all from home and you can guarantee the fridge filters will be recycled properly and not end up in landfill.
1. Recycle Water Filters
At RecycleWaterFilters.com they will recycle refrigerator water filters of:
- Any brand
- Any size
- Any quantity
Great, so “how much is it?” I hear you ask…
Ok, so it obviously depends on what sized package you are sending and also how many of their required shipping labels you purchase beforehand.
Recycle Water Filters provide different recycling kit cost structures for small (residential) and large (commercial) sized packages as follows:
Small (residential) sized packages:
- Shipping in a USPS Flat Rate Mailer or Similar Size Box – (12″ x 12″ x 5 1/2″).
- You use your own box, air dry the filter(s) and place the shipping label and order number on the outside (front) of the box.
|Number of shipping labels||Cost||Savings|
As one box would fit roughly 2 to 3 used refrigerator water filters (depending on the brand), the actual cost to you then becomes just a few bucks for each filter, which is quite manageable.
Large (commercial – or maybe your just very thirsty) sized packages:
- Shipping in a Gaylord Pallet Box – (48″ x 48″ x 36″).
- Air dry all filter(s) and place the shipping label and order number on the outside (front) of the filled Gaylord box. Ship your Gaylord box on a pallet to RecycleWaterFilters using your favorite trucking line.
|Number of shipping labels||Cost||Savings|
TerraCycle have a Zero Waste Box system (recycling kit) you can purchase and send through your used refrigerator water filter(s). They don’t offer any discount for purchasing more than one box at a time however, and they are more expensive than Recycle Water Filters.
The TerraCycle Zero Waste Box systems are sold in two different sizes (20 and 40 inches tall) as follows:
|Small Shipping Box 11″ x 11″ x 20″||$96.00 each||0%|
|Medium Shipping Box 11″ x 11″ x 40″||$153.00 each||0%|
Both shipping box sizes could fit many refrigerator water filters (depending on the brand), but if it’s just for residential purposes it may take a long while for you to fill it up.
TerraCycle even have an option to send a Zero Waste Pallet full of filters, but the cost of shipping is not included. Also if you want the pallet back, the cost is also on you. This is how much it costs:
|Pallet Bag 35″ x 35″ x 55″||$1,845.00 each||0%|
Cleaning and reusing refrigerator water filters
Refrigerator water filters contain activated carbon, typically a carbon block, and some have a sediment filter. While you can lightly clean some regular water filters (such as filters in pitchers, under sink, countertop or reverse osmosis systems), there really is NO WAY to get into a refrigerator filter to clean it.
What happens if you don’t change your refrigerator water filter? The water filter in your refrigerator is designed to remove contaminants from your drinking water and should be changed regularly. Not changing an old refrigerator water filter can result in a number of issues including a bad odor or taste, slow filtering speed or low water pressure. If you are unsure if your filter needs changing, check out the post on 10 Signs You Definitely Need To Replace A Water Filter.
Do you have to turn off the water to change a fridge filter? Before changing a refrigerator water filter you should always turn off the water supply to the unit. This will help prevent water leaking into your refrigerator (or kitchen floor) and makes it easier to remove the filter.
Do refrigerator water filters remove fluoride? Refrigerator water filters and icemaker filters do not remove fluoride from tap water. Like many water filters, refrigerator filters use sediment and/or carbon to remove contaminants, but are unable to remove inorganic mineral anions like fluoride. If you want to know more about removing fluoride from water, check out our post: 3 Types Of Water Purifiers That Actually Remove Fluoride.