How to Dispose of a Water Filter (a Water Expert Explains)

Wondering what to do with your old, used water filter? Recycling the filter would make the most sense – but what if the filter cartridge is non-recyclable and the manufacturer doesn’t offer a recycling program?

In this guide, we’ve shared the best things to do with an old, used non-recyclable water filter.

📌 Key Takeaways:

  • Old, used filter media should be disposed of in your municipal solid waste or (only if possible) sent to a filter media recycling company.
  • Used filter shells should also be discarded in your trash to be processed at a landfill site.
  • Don’t scatter your water filter media in your yard or flush it down your toilet, and don’t recycle your filter shells if they’re non-recyclable or you’re not sure.
  • If you’re unsure whether or not your filter is recyclable, speak to the manufacturer. Consider switching to a brand offering recyclable products or a recycling program for future filter purchases.

✅ How to Dispose of Old, Used Filter Media

There are two possible ways to dispose of old, spent media from your water filter cartridges.

1) Dispose of It In Your Municipal Solid Waste

Unfortunately, the best method of discarding your used water filter media is simply to put it in your municipal solid waste.

Even if your water filter manufacturer offers a recycling program for filters, they probably only want the filter’s plastic outer shell. A number of manufacturers recommend dumping the used filter media in the trash before sending the filter shell back.

📌 Sending your water filter media to landfill doesn’t sound ideal, but landfill sites are generally contained to reduce pollution, so your filter media is better off in landfill than anywhere else.

Throwing an old filter media to trash

2) Send It To A Media Recycling Company

Some types of water filter media, like activated carbon, can be recycled and re-activated (by cleaning away the waste products soaked in the charcoal) for reuse.

You might be able to find a local company that will recycle your filter media, but there’s no guarantee. Most companies only recycle industrial-grade carbon filters.

⛔️ How NOT to Dispose of Old Filter Media

Avoid both of these methods of discarding old filter media.

Don’t Pour It In Your Sink Or Flush It Down Your Toilet

Our plumbing and water systems aren’t designed to cope with the materials used in filter media. Plus, used water filters often contain harmful contaminants that shouldn’t be introduced into the water supply. Don’t wash your old filter media down your sink drain or flush it down the toilet.

Don’t Scatter It In Your Yard

Some online sources say that the likes of activated carbon media can be scattered in your yard or on your compost heap. We strongly advise against this. Why? Because the collected contaminants inside the filter cartridges will leak into the environment, contaminating your soils and potentially nearby water sources.

Scattering filter media into the yard

✅ How to Discard Non-Recyclable Filter Cartridge Shells

The shells on the outside of your filter are usually made from plastic. You can discard the filter cartridge shells using just one method.

Put It In Your Trash

Again, the best thing to do with a non-recyclable filter shell is simply to trash it. Plastic water filters may pollute the environment if they end up anywhere other than a landfill site.

📌 If you’re keen to cut down on your waste, consider extending the lifespan of your filter shell by using it for another purpose before trashing it. Depending on the size and shape of the shell, you could use it for storing small items or as a plant pot for small plants.

⛔️ How NOT to Discard Non-Recyclable Filter Cartridge Shells

If you have an old, non-recyclable water filter cartridge shell, avoid the following method of disposal:

Don’t Recycle Them

There’s a new term used today to describe the act of recycling something that might not be recyclable, in the hopes that it will be: wish cycling.

If your filter cartridge shells aren’t recyclable, or you can’t find any information to say that they are recyclable, don’t just recycle them and hope for the best. It’s better to trash non-recyclable plastic waste to avoid contaminating recycling centers and forcing otherwise usable materials to landfill.

♻️ How to Recycle Old Filter Cartridges

If you buy water filters from a manufacturer of recyclable cartridges, you’ll be able to recycle water filters from your own home.

📌 Take the filter apart and recycle the materials that can be recycled (usually the plastic outer shell). Contact your local recycling center and ask them which plastics they take.

The most common types of recyclable water filters are pitcher water filters and refrigerator water filters.

Your water filter manufacturer might offer a recycling program that makes it even easier to recycle your used water filters – and often gives an incentive for doing so. You can learn more about how to recycle water filers in our simple guide.

Recycling center

📲 If In Doubt, Contact The Manufacturer

Not sure whether or not your water filters are recyclable? Before you toss them out, contact the manufacturer.

The manufacturer should be able to advise on whether or not you can recycle any part of their water filters, and, if not, how to safely dispose of the filter media and outer shell.

If the manufacturer’s water filters aren’t recyclable, ask them why not. If so many manufacturers now offer recycling programs, the rest should be able to keep up!

💵 Consider Buying a Recyclable Filter

Constantly trashing old water filters might play on your conscience. If you want to avoid contributing needlessly to landfill sites, consider switching filter manufacturers and using recyclable water filters.

There are plenty of manufacturers offering recycling programs and/or recyclable water filters today, including Brita Water Filters, Epic Water Filters, and ZeroWater.

❔ How to Discard Used Water Filter: FAQ

How do you dispose of a Brita filter?

Brita has teamed up with TerraCycle to offer a recycling program. You can fill out a form online to get a label for free shipping. Leave the filter for three days to dry out, then wait until you gave 5 pounds of plastic and mail it to the address on the shipping label.

How do I dispose of a GE refrigerator water filter?

GE is one of the few refrigerator filter manufacturers that offers a recycling program for used water filters. Again, you mail the water filter to GE once it has been used and replaced.

Does Whole Foods recycle water filters?

No, Whole Foods doesn’t accept used water filters for its Gimme 5 recycling program.

What can I do with an old water purifier?

If you have a purifier unit that’s no longer in use, such as a tap water pitcher, see if the unit is recyclable. Contact the manufacturer to ask if you can send it back to be recycled or re-used. Or, repurpose the filter unit as a plant pot, a piece of decor, or a storage container.

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