04/14/2008 Update: If you’ve reached this page because you want to know how to recycle Brita filter cartridges in North America, please visit http://www.takebackthefilter.org for more information about the campaign to urge Clorox (owner of Brita in North America) to develop a take-back recycling program for these cartridges!
So I really need your input on this one! What method of water filtration do you use and why? Are you able to recycle the filter? One of the items in my plastic waste pile from last week was a very heavy used Brita water filter cartridge. What to do with it? I checked Brita’s web site and found out that in Britain, they have a recycling program. However, there was no mention of recycling on the U.S. web site, so I sent the following letter and received the following response:
Note sent on web site contact form: http://www.brita.com/contact_form_us.php
Re: Brita On Tap System
Questions/Comments: I understand that Brita filters can be recycled in Europe. Can they be recycled in the US? Is there any address to send them to?
June 27, 2007
Ms. Beth Terry
Reference Number: 4959167
Dear Ms. Terry,
Thank you for contacting us about Brita On Tap Filter – Regular. We always appreciate hearing from our consumers.
We appreciate your interest in our product, as well as your concerns about the environment. The BRITA water filter system’s ion-exchange resin removes heavy metals from your water by an actual exchange; that is, hydrogen ions are released into the water to replace the ions of such potentially hazardous substances as lead and copper. Because the BRITA filter is designed to trap these contaminants, it is not considered recyclable using available technology. Nonetheless, we do share your concerns, and we make every attempt to use product formulations and packaging which will be safe and effective, while at the same time producing a minimal environmental impact. I would like to take this opportunity to describe some of the actions we have taken.
At BRITA we recognize that recycling and solid waste reduction are the most viable long-term solutions for our solid waste problem, so we have tried to focus our efforts in these directions. We use recycled packaging material whenever possible. The paper used for most of our inserts contains 35% post-commercial and 15% post-consumer recycled paper. In addition, the scrap plastic generated in the production of BRITA systems is reground and used again for new parts. Both of these methods reduce the amount of waste going to our landfills. We are doing our part to reduce the amount of heavy metal contaminants in landfills by using printing ink with reduced metal content on our packaging.
Of course, reuse and recycling are not the only methods for reducing solid waste. We have come to recognize that packaging materials can often be reduced without compromising durability. For instance, while conversion of our BRITA Standard carton from a dual structure to a single corrugated carton resulted in approximately 6% reduction in material, we have found that the new cartons provide very effective protection for the product during shipping.
I hope this information reassures you that the people at BRITA share your concern for the environment.
Again, thank you for contacting us.
Consumer Response Representative
So as you can see, he didn’t even bother addressing the point about the filters being recyclable in Europe. Therefore, I sent this follow-up question today:
Date: Wed, 27 Jun 2007 19:22:09 -0700 (PDT)
From: “Beth Terry”
Subject: Re: Reference Number: 4959167
Thank you for your prompt response. I have a follow-up question. Do the Brita filters sold in Europe use a different technology from the ones sold in the U.S.? I found the following question and answer on the European Brita web site:
“Are Brita cartridges recyclable?
All components of the Brita cartridge are recyclable. Cartridges returned to Brita will be returned to our own recycling plant in Germany where the component parts are separated and processed for secondary use. Cartridges can be returned via our Freepost address below: BRITA RECYCLING, FREEPOST NAT17876, Bicester, OX26 4BR.”
Is there some reason that the U.S. filters cannot be recycled but the European ones can? I am really trying to find a way to be as ecologically responsible as I can.
In addition, I sent an e-mail today to several other water filter companies asking whether their filters can be recycled. I found 2 companies online that advertise that they recycle their filters, however there are problems with both. Abundant Earth has a recycling program for their filters, which use copper-zinc (KDF) in combination with coconut shell carbon. But another company, Aquasana, says that they “no longer use KDF-55 in drinking water filters because high levels of copper are not good for the brain.” That’s it. No citation or other reference. Don’t know what that means. (BTW, I e-mailed Aquasana today to find out if their filters are recyclable. I’m guessing not.)
The other company that advertises a filter recycling program is TerraFlo. However, a statement on their home page indicates that they haven’t been taking any new orders since January of this year. Also, it’s very odd that nowhere on their site do they tell you what kind of filtration method is used. (Unless I missed it. It’s not in the FAQ.)
I’ve been reading about other methods such as reverse osmosis and distillation, which seem to be harmful because they leach all of the beneficial minerals out of the water.
So I need help. What method do you use to filter water? What do you do with the used filter?