As you liberate yourself from costly bottled water, trying instead to filter tap water if and as needed, you’ve probably begun to wonder what to do with all those used plastic-and-carbon filter cartridges from your carafe. It seems a bit counterintuitive to switch from one plastic-wrapped water product to another, an irony not lost on Take Back the Filter’s founder Beth Terry. She says, “We feel that large companies like Clorox [the maker of Brita filters] that are attempting to go green, can lead the way for others.” She’s collected over 15,000 online signatures on a petition asking Clorox to create an easy way for consumers to recycle their water filters. Her organization was recently featured in The New York Times, “Pressure is on to recycle water filters.”

We featured the new Zero water filter pitchers in our last water filter blog, and they bear another mention here for their forward-thinking recycling policy. Consumers can send used cartridges back to the company for recycling, making this new gadget number one on our holiday wish list. Unfortunately, you’ll have to pay for the shipping costs yourself, and the filter must be wrapped in not one, but two plastic bags (despite your best efforts, you probably have a few of those on hand).

No matter what the season, be a Grinch about bottled water. Water filter cartridges, even if they aren’t recycled, create significantly less waste than water bottles in landfills, according to Joe E. Heimlich, a professor of natural resources and environmental science at Ohio State University. A regular carbon water filter, found in Brita and Pur pitchers, only needs to be changed once every three months, unlike water bottles, which usually get thrown out the day they are used. According to the Container Recycling Institute, over 100 billion plastic water bottles have already been thrown away and not recycled this year, or to put it another way, 40 million bottles a day.

Story by Rachel Brown. This article originally appeared in Plenty magazine in October 2008. Copyright Environ Press 2008

Recycling water filters
Ditch the bottle and grab the much-friendlier water option: filters. Just make sure you recycle them when they're done.