It's no secret that air filters must be replaced regularly to maintain the optimal air quality in your home or office. But what happens when it's time to replace the filter, and you don't know what to do with the old one? If you've never thought about it, you're probably just tossing them in the garbage! So what are you supposed to do? Recycling is always an option, but not all air filters can be recycled. This article will cover everything you need to know about recycling air filters and proper disposal methods.
Recycling Air Filters by Type
There are different air filters out there made of all types of materials. You may hear terms to describe filters like HEPA, pleated, and MERV, to name a few. So we'll go over the disposal process depending on what the air filter is made of: Fiberglass, Polyester, Aluminum, and Carbon.
Fiberglass Filter (air purifier, vacuum, etc.)
Let's start with the most common type of filter, the HEPA air filter. This is the fiberglass filter and the most effective one on the market today for air cleaning. First, here's why you'll never want to just throw this filter in the trash: Fiberglass does not decompose.
In other words, when transported to a landfill, it will sit there forever. Fiberglass is a type of plastic that can be reused. However, it is not as strong as other types of plastics and has its recycling process to maintain its efficiency.
These filters can be recycled, but checking with your local recycling center first is important. This is the best and most easy option; if your recycling center takes them, keep sending them there. Some centers will accept HEPA filters, while others will not. If your local center does not accept HEPA filters, you can always recycle them at home. Just be sure to remove the metal grille and cardboard frame before recycling.
Polyester Filter (air purifier)
Some air purifiers and other devices still use pleated fabric filters, although HEPA is today's standard choice. Some filters are made of cotton, some polyester, and many combine fabric types.
Pleated fabric filters are not recyclable, but they can be reused. Polyester is not great for the environment and takes time to degrade at a landfill. Cotton is okay to recycle, and recycling it is good because it takes a lot of resources to grow cotton. Recycling cotton reduces this need. It depends exactly what the filter is made of, so the best case is to take the fabric filter to your local recycling center and ask them for advice.
These filters can last up to three months with proper care and maintenance. To clean a pleated filter, simply vacuum it on the low setting. Be sure to let the filter dry before putting it back in your air purifier.
Aluminum Filter (A/C, furnace, humidifier)
Aluminum filters are not recyclable, but they can be disposed of in your regular trash. An example of an aluminum filter would be an electrostatic filter, which you might use for your A/C or heating unit.
The same goes for humidifier wick filters, although you wouldn't guess that by taking one look at them. Wick filters are made of a type of aluminum that is also entirely safe for trash. Humidifier filters are designed to be disposed of quick and easy, given the importance of having to change the filter every single season.
Carbon Filter (air purifier)
Carbon filters are made of activated charcoal, which is great for trapping odors and VOCs (volatile organic compounds). Because of this, they are often used in air purifiers. They can be recycled, but you'll need to remove any metal and plastic components (if there are any). Once you've done that, the activated charcoal can be simply recycled along with your regular trash.
Contact Your Local Recycling Center for Advice
So there you have it! Everything you need to know about recycling air filters. In most cases, you'll want to drop off your filters at the recycling center.
Remember: HEPA filters can be recycled, pleated cotton or fabric filters can be reused, carbon and aluminum filters can be disposed of in your regular trash. Now that you know what to do with your old air filters, you can rest easy knowing that you are doing your part to help the environment.