Water Filter Recycling – What’s The Real Cost For You?


Finding an easy way to recycle your used water filters is probably the last thing you think about when buying a water filter or purifier. Most of the free water filter recycling programs have stopped, and you can’t put them in your regular recycling.

Can water filters be recycled? Water filters of any brand, size or type can be recycled. Paid recycling options range from $4.99 up to $96.00 using RecycleWaterFilters or TerraCycle. Free water filter recycling programs are available for Brita and PUR customers.

Below we’ll go through the recyclable materials in water filters, how much it costs if you want to mail them off for recycling – Hint: It’s probably less than you think. We’ll also detail the current free recycling programs and how they work, and also which ones have been discontinued so you don’t have to keep searching.

Can water filters be recycled?

When most people think about water filters, they generally think it’s just the plastic that’s recyclable. In truth, plastic is just one part of the many recyclable components, which is why it’s important the entire filter ends up at a proper recycling facility and not just as landfill.

Some of the recyclable materials in water filters include:

Plastics

Plastics are first removed from the disassembled water filters and then undergo extrusion and pelletization. In this form, the pellatilized plastics can be molded into many new recycled plastic products such as:

  • Bike racks
  • Cups
  • Cutting boards
  • Park benches
  • Patio chairs
  • Razor handles
  • Toothbrush handles
  • Watering cans

Carbon

Carbon from water filters is able to be recycled may times over and can continue to be used in a number of different applications to remove (adsorb) contaminants from the environment. The carbon filters are separated, cleaned and sometimes commercially regenerated (re-activated) for use in:

  • Polymers
  • Treatment of hazardous waste streams
  • Treatment of contaminated groundwater
  • Adsorbing particulates (liquid or vapor forms) from other media

Metals

Metals, such as aluminum, can be used in some water filter casings. Metals are mechanically and/or manually separated from the water filters and are then melted so they may be recycled into other products.

Which water filter brands can be recycled?

All brands of different types and sizes can be recycled. Many people ask if a specific brand of filter can be recycled or not, but in fact it really doesn’t matter what brand you have – THEY CAN ALL BE RECYCLED.

This includes top brands such as:

  • Brita
  • PUR
  • ZeroWater
  • Everdrop
  • Samsung
  • Whirlpool

Although the brands listed above, AND MANY MORE, can be recycled, it’s important to consider the following:

Water filters DO NOT get recycled if you put them in your regular household recycling collection.

Your local household recycling center MAY have a special drop-off site for filters, but you should always check with them first.

Paid options for recycling water filters

There are two recycling facilities we’ve found that have a paid option to mail your water filters for recycling.

  1. Recycle Water Filters
  2. TerraCycle

Both make it really simple as you can download a paid shipping label and organize the packaging of your filters from your own home.

Here are the details and cost for each:

1. Recycle Water Filters

Recycle Water Filters have different cost structures for both residential and commercial applications:

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 front of the box.
Number of shipping labelsCostSavings
One$6.99 each0%
Two$5.99 each15%
Ten$4.99 each29%

As one box will fit more than 1 water filter, the cost to send each filter is probably just a few bucks – which isn’t that much when you consider some other options.

Large (commercial – or maybe you’re just extremely thirsty) sized packages:

  • Place your air-dried filter(s) in the Gaylord Pallet box (48″ x 48″ x 36″).
  • Attach the shipping label and order number to the front of the box.
  • Ship your Gaylord box on a pallet to RecycleWaterFilters using your desired trucking line.
Number of shipping labelsCostSavings
One$669.00 each0%
Two$639.00 each5%
Ten$599.00 each11%

2. TerraCycle

TerraCycle have a Zero Waste Box system (recycling kit) you can purchase to mail your used water filter(s) off for recycling. The shipping boxes seem expensive, but you’ll be able to fit a lot of filters inside.

Small – medium (residential) sized recycling kits

The TerraCycle Zero Waste Box systems are sold in 20 inch or 40 inch tall sizes as follows:

SizeCostMulti-buy Savings
Small Shipping Box 11″ x 11″ x 20″ $96.00 each0%
Medium Shipping Box 11″ x 11″ x 40″ $153.00 each0%

Large (commercial) sized recycling kit

TerraCycle also have a Zero Waste Pallet Bag option, but the cost of shipping is not included. Also, if you want the pallet back, the cost is on you.

SizeCostMulti-buy Savings
Pallet Bag 35″ x 35″ x 55″$1,845.00 each0%

FREE water filter recycling programs

Brita Recycling Program

Brita have partnered with TerraCycle, a national program aimed at recycling EVERYTHING. The program allows people to recycle Brita products including:

  • Water filters
  • Pitchers
  • Dispensers
  • Bottles
  • Faucet systems
  • Filter packaging

This is done through the Gimme 5 program. The “5” stands for the #5 plastics found in many of their products, which is recycled and molded into many different plastic products.

Here’s how the program works:

  • Brita requires you to sign up for the program
  • You have to air-dry roughly 5 lb of filters (or other Brita products) before putting them in the supplied TerraCycle Zero Waste Box, attaching the shipping label and then dropping it off at a UPS location.
  • You will earn “My Brita” points to redeem rewards

To give you an idea of the My Brita points system, I took on the VERY exciting job of reading through their official terms and conditions for you:

  • You get 3 points for recycling your water filter (they do not make it clear if this relates to the entire box of filters or individual filters – but I doubt they would count them for you)
  • Limit is 1 TerraCycle Zero Waste box per month
  • You need 20 points to get a $4.00 Brita Filter Coupon

PUR Recycling Program

PUR has partnered with RecycleNation, which means you can locate a nearby drop-off location for your used PUR water filters. It’s basically a “water filter recycling near me” guide.

Here’s how the program works:

  • Head to RecycleNation online and type in your waste stream (i.e. water filter) and your zip code
  • Identify a drop-off location nearby
  • Note: The recycling locations are not always kept up-to-date
  • PUR suggest contacting the individual organization where you intend to take your water filters and confirm they still have a drop-off recycling bin
  • If there are no drop-off locations nearby, you may have to try and find an alternative recycling option.

ZeroWater Recycling Program

The ZeroWater recycling program is NOT EXACTLY FREE as you have to pay for UPS shipping, but it is very straight forward and you get a coupon you can exchange for more filters.

Here’s how the program works:

  • All you have to do is box up two full sized ZeroWater filters along with a completed recycling form.
  • If you don’t have access to this form you can download it from ZeroWater here.
  • Two full sized filters gets you a coupon code worth $10.00 on ZeroWater.com

FREE recycling programs that have ENDED

A number manufactures or retailers of water filters that previously offered FREE recycling programs have sadly ended. These include:

MAVEA Recycling Program

There was some chatter that Mavea was going out of business a few years ago, but this is not the case and are continuing to produce filter replacements.

However, the Mavea water filter recycling program has ENDED.

Whirlpool Refresh & Recycle Program

In 2014, Whirlpool started a program called Refresh & Recycle. For a small fee, you got a recycling kit that you could use to send and recycle ANY type or brand of water filter.

The program used g2 revolution as their third party recycling facility, but the Whirlpool recycling program ENDED and no longer accepts water filters for recycling.

We checked with g2 revolution to see if they were still recycling water filters independently of the Whirlpool program, but unfortunately they have also stopped this specific recycling service.

General Electric (GE) Recycling Program

In 2011, GE started a program where all GE appliances could be recycled. As part of their environmental commitment, the program allowed you to recycle your water filters. After purchasing a replacement water filter, you received a recycling kit including a shipping label and envelope that you used to send the old filters to Stericycle for recycling.

The GE appliance recycling program is still running, but the part where they post out a free water filter recycling kit has ENDED.

Everpure Recycling Program

Previously, this program allowed Everpure water filters to be recycled for FREE, using TerraCycle. Unfortunately, Everpure’s recycling partnership with TerraCycle has ENDED.

Should you break apart a water filter to recycle it?

Some people say you should separate all of the filter components out and recycle them individually in your normal household recycling (excluding the carbon). Others suggest pouring the carbon contents into the trash or even out in your yard. It’s up to you if you really want to try this, just wear gloves, but there are a number of issues with it that you may not have considered:

  1. Filters are made of different plastics and many will not have a printed recycling number. This means if you break them apart and put them in your normal recycling they can be i) treated as waste, or ii) contaminate other plastic recycling streams.
  2. Emptying the old carbon into the bin is wasteful as it can be recycled many times over.
  3. Pouring old carbon out in your yard is the same as pouring out a concentrated form of contaminated water, which is obviously, not good for the environment.
  4. Sending it to a proper recycling facility means every usable component of the filter gets to be recycled.

Related questions:

Are water filters bad for the environment? Some home purification systems can be bad for the environment with high numbers of cartridge replacements. Water filters filter contaminants and some microbes, so once used, their contents can harbor many impurities that can be potentially harmful to the environment. For more details relating to this subject, check out our post How water purification helps (or harms) the environment – The Facts!

Can refrigerator water filters be recycled? Refrigerator water filters can be recycled for their carbon, which is mainly in block form, plastics and sometimes metals. Refrigerator water filters can be recycled along with your regular water filters.

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