Being environmentally aware, my first instinct after changing out old filters is that I wanted to recycle them, but I wasn’t sure if I could or if they should just be thrown in the trash.
After some research, I quickly learned that it depends on what the filter is made of – whether plastic, polyester, fiberglass, or synthetic fibers.
Let’s dive head-first into the world of recycling old air filters and go over safe disposal methods.
Keep reading to learn more about the recyclability of air filters and how to dispose of them properly!
Are Air Filters Recyclable?
While recycling air filters might seem like the right thing, it’s not that simple. Disposable air filters have a cardboard or plastic frame, but the actual filter material itself can vary. Some materials are recyclable and others aren’t.
My air purifier has a fiberglass filter. They are pretty commonly used in air purifiers because they are affordable, reliable, and effective at trapping dust and debris while maintaining airflow. Unfortunately, my fiberglass filters are not recyclable, so I have to dispose of them properly.
Washable filters made from plastic are a more eco-friendly option because they can be used repeatedly. However, not all washable filters are made from recyclable plastic, so it’s important to check the manufacturer’s instructions before disposing of them when the time comes.
My purifier also has an activated carbon filter. They are safe and reliable, consistently trapping particles and keeping the air fresh. Unfortunately, it’s not recyclable, so proper disposal is necessary.
So, can you recycle air filters?
Air purifier filters are generally not recyclable. This is primarily because they are typically made from a combination of materials that are difficult to separate and recycle.
Once the air filter needs to be replaced, it should be disposed of in a trash bag, following any specific disposal instructions provided by the manufacturer. This is important for maintaining good air quality and avoiding potential health hazards.
What about HVAC air filters?
While exploring all possible options for the responsible disposal of HVAC air filters is a good idea, it’s important to note that HVAC companies like mine are probably unlikely to recycle used filters.
This is because the materials used in an HVAC air filter are often difficult to recycle, and the cost of recycling may be higher than the cost of producing a new HVAC air filter.
Some manufacturers may provide specific instructions for disposing of their filters, such as separating the filter material from the frame or disposing of the air filter material in a particular trash bag.
How To Dispose Of Air Purifier Filters? (Safe Ways)
It’s important to take proper precautions to reduce exposure to potentially harmful particles when disposing of your air filter. I always wear gloves and a mask when handling dirty filters.
Some reusable air filters may contain hazardous materials like asbestos or lead and must be disposed of as hazardous waste. Check with your local waste management facility for guidance on disposing of these filters.
Before replacing the air filter, remember to shut off the purifier to avoid unfiltered air coming through the system while changing out filters. Not having a filter in the purifier could damage the equipment.
For a typical reusable filter, you’ll want to place the old air filter into a separate bag or container to prevent puncturing other trash bags or containers. Make sure the bag’s ready to go so you can immediately put the old filter into the bag.
Tie up the trash bag, trying not to shake or bump the bag too much because the dirt and debris can easily unsettle.
What you see caught in the reusable air filter is only a portion of how much the filter has collected. If you bang it against something, you risk releasing microscopic particles like mold, bacteria, and viruses into the air.
To ensure the bag is secure, tie the bag strings and tape the bag shut with duct tape so the bag won’t rip open. Then, throw out the filters in an outdoor trash can with a secure lid to prevent animals from getting into it.
Even though bags are a safe way to throw out old filters, they can puncture. If that happens and you keep the used air filter inside, you release more dust and debris back into your house, so always take it outside.
Are Air Filters Considered Hazardous Waste?
Some air filters used in industrial settings, such as paint booth filters, can be considered hazardous waste. However, most people don’t have hazardous filters in their homes.
Industrial filters containing hazardous substances like lead, asbestos, and certain chemicals must be handled carefully. Employees working with these filters should take extra precautions to protect themselves and the environment and evaluate the filters to determine whether they are hazardous.
When disposing of hazardous filters, they should be stored in a non-leaking container and marked with the hazardous waste symbol. A licensed waste professional should transport them to ensure proper disposal.
Can air filters catch on fire?
Air purifiers can catch on fire. Air purifiers can overheat and short circuit, so put them in areas with good ventilation. Catching fire is more likely if you overuse the purifier or the filter expires.
What do the leading brands and companies say about air filter recycling?
Leading air filter brands and companies generally recommend disposing of used air filters in the regular trash, as discussed above. Some may offer recycling programs or suggest contacting an HVAC company for potential recycling options, but it is not widely promoted as a standard practice due to the risk of contamination.
Is it better to buy washable and reusable filters?
It is often better to use reusable filters. They are undoubtedly more eco-friendly since they last five to ten years. And when it comes to efficiency, they are on par with or perhaps even better than disposable air filters. You can clean and reuse permanent or washable HEPA filters many times as long as you don’t damage the air filter.
I like to recycle as much as I can, but unfortunately, recycling air purifier filters typically isn’t feasible. However, I have found safe and responsible ways to dispose of them without adding to environmental waste.
Taking the necessary precautions when handling and disposing of used filters will help ensure a cleaner, healthier indoor environment for you and your family.