Switching from bottled water to filtered tap water is a great way to reduce your household use of plastics. Beverage bottles account for 40% of the nearly 350 million metric tons of plastic produced each year globally. So, committing to tap water is a responsible idea. However, since the human body is 60% water, paying close attention to where that water is coming from makes sense. Many people are concerned that their tap water may include harmful contaminants like lead or chlorine; others simply don’t like the taste. The solution? Filtered tap water. It is the healthier, more sustainable choice, but it has its challenges too. The recycling mystery?  What do we do with the used filters? For years the only answer was throwing them into the trash bin. Now a few options have emerged that, although imperfect, are far superior to the landfill.

  1. Return by Mail

Britta has partnered with Terracycle to create a program that incentivizes customers by giving them points towards new purchases for returning used filters via mail. There are a few caveats; for example, each customer may only mail in one shipment per year, and each must weigh five pounds or more. This means storing used filters until you reach the minimum requirement, which may challenge customers with limited space. The positive is that Britta pays for the shipping, and the plastic will be given another life.

  1. Composable Filters

Two innovative companies have designed partially compostable water filters.  Each filter has a reusable plastic casing and a replaceable filter made of bamboo or carbon. The challenge with this option is that the carbon filters can only be composted in an industrial composting facility which is not always convenient to access. The bamboo-activated charcoal filters can be included in household compost, but the filter will potentially have harmful materials like lead, mercury, and chlorine filtered out of the water; this could contaminate your compost pile. The upside? These filters are basically zero waste and easy to use.

  1. Pay- to- Recycle

In theory, water filters should be designed to have a second life; the plastic melted down to make pellets for manufacturing; however, with hard to recycle materials, residential recycling facilities often don’t recover their costs or don’t have the proper machinery to handle them; that’s why we see companies charging for recycling. can recycle 15 types of water filters. They charged $6.99 for the first shipment and $5.99 for all shipments after that. The advantage of this method is that there is no weight minimum or limit on how many batches you can send a year.

To get all the answers to this recycling mystery, don’t hesitate to contact your curbside recycling company, a local recycling center like Greenworks, or your public works department. Remember, filtered tap water is more eco-friendly than plastic water bottles, and though recycling them may require a little effort, you can feel good about making the right choice for your health and the health of our planet.