Can You Recycle Air Filters? (Find Out Now!)

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

Filters ensure that the air in your home is safe to breathe. But there will come a point when those filters are no longer usable. When that happens, do you need to throw them out, or can you recycle air filters?

Air filters collect dust and other airborne particles during use. The presence of that filth makes a used air filter unsuitable for recycling. Instead, you should throw your air filters in the trash. However, some air filters include recyclable components. To recycle those pieces, you’ll need to identify them and separate them from the rest of the filter before disposal.

Checking the materials of your air filter is the best way to decide how to dispose of it. This article will explore all you need to know about air filter disposal.

Why You Can’t Recycle Most Air Filters

At first glance, it appears that many of the materials present in an air filter are recyclable. However, the way we use air filters makes throwing them away a much better option.

The main purpose of an air filter is to collect dust, debris, and other kinds of airborne filth. By collecting those dirty materials, air filters keep the air you breathe as clean as can be.

Air filters can remove a surprising number of contaminants from the air during use. For example, there are some high-efficiency air filters that trap 99.97% of harmful airborne particles.

Stats like that show that a filter will hold a lot of dirt, pollen, and bacteria after prolonged use. Once your filter has those materials on it, it is no longer an item you can simply place in the recycling.

You wouldn’t consider putting dust, dirt, or other waste into the recycling under normal circumstances. So don’t do so when those materials are on your air filters.

When it’s Alright to Recycle an Air Filter

There are some cases in which you can recycle an air filter, but you’ll need to know what to look for before you do. One of the best places to start is by understanding the common materials present in these filters.

Understanding Air Filter Materials

While there are plenty of different types of air filters, they generally have the same basic pieces. The two main parts of a standard air filter are the frame and the filter itself.

The actual filter is nothing more than a mesh fine enough to capture tiny air particles. That mesh often includes one or more of these materials:

  • Polypropylene
  • Fiberglass
  • Other plastics and synthetic fibers

Many of the materials manufacturers use in their air filter meshes are not recyclable. That means you cannot put those filters in the recycling even if they are not dirty.

Conversely, air filter frames are often made of cardboard or metal. If you can identify a recyclable frame material and disconnect it from the filter, you should be able to recycle it without any issue.

Dealing with Air Filter Disposal

Now that you know recycling is not the main way to dispose of an air filter, it’s time to learn the right way. Below are a few options you can consider when you need to get rid of one of your old air filters.

Throw Your Air Filters in the Trash

The easiest way to get rid of your used air filter is to throw it in your garbage can. However, there are some steps you might want to take to keep dirty air particles in your filter under control.

Try placing your used air filter in a sealable plastic bag before throwing it away. This will ensure that the harmful particles your air filter caught do not become airborne again.

After all, the entire goal of an air filter is to keep the air in your home clean. Disposing of your air filter with caution and care will ensure your air filter completes its job successfully.

Contact Your Air Filter Supplier

If you are uncomfortable removing your air filter by yourself, you should contact someone to do it for you. Often, you can reach out to the company that provided your air filter.

Often, HVAC suppliers offer services that include air filter removal. Using those services makes it so that your filter will be thrown away the right way every time.

Avoid Disposal with Reusable Filters

The best way to prevent the confusion of how to dispose of an air filter is to avoid the issue entirely. Today, there are plenty of air filters that are reusable.

With a reusable filter, you won’t need to worry about regular disposal and replacement. Instead, you can simply clean your filters occasionally.

Although they may be more costly, washable filters are worth the price in the long run. While you may need to remove a disposable filter every few months, a reusable filter usually lasts a decade or more.

Using a reusable air filter is not only a matter of convenience. It is also an environmentally friendly option. Without the need to constantly replace your filter, you’ll be sending less waste to your local landfill.

How to Throw Away an Air Filter a Step-By-Step Guide

Air filter disposal can be more complex than you might first expect. Let’s add some clarity to that process with a simple five-step guide.

  • Remove Your Air Filter
  • Identify Air Filter Materials
  • Separate Recyclable and Non-recyclable Pieces
  • Dispose of Air Filter Pieces Correctly
  • Replace Your Air Filter with a New One

1. Remove Your Air Filter

Begin by locating and removing your air filter. Most home air filters are in the return ducts. Often, you’ll need to use a screwdriver to remove the outer grate. Then you should be able to take the filter out by hand.

2. Identify Air Filter Materials

Check what materials exist in your air filter. Usually, the filter itself will contain non-recyclable materials. The filter will also be dirty, making it unfit for recycling. The filter frame may be made of cardboard or another recyclable material.

3. Separate Recyclable and Non-Recyclable Pieces

Separate any recyclable pieces from the rest of the filter. Typically, this involves separating the frame from the filter itself.

4. Dispose of Air Filter Pieces Correctly

Any recyclable materials can go into your recycling bin. For trash pieces, you can either throw them in your garbage or call your HVAC company to remove them for you.

5. Replace Your Air Filter with a New One

Going without an air filter exposes you to air particles, some of which could be harmful. That is why the last step of the removal process is to replace your air filter. That way, the air in your home will remain clean and safe to breathe.

Related Questions

Are Air Filters Considered Hazardous Waste?

We’ve mentioned that air filters can get pretty dirty after just a few weeks of use. That can lead some to believe that an air filter is a form of hazardous waste.But that’s not the case. An air filter is quite filthy and not suitable for recycling. Still, it remains a normal form of waste that you can put in a typical dumpster.

How Do You Replace an Air Filter?

Replacing an air filter is usually an easy task. As long as you have access to your vents and some simple tools, you can replace your filters as you please.Use a screwdriver to remove your vent cover. Then pull out your old filter and replace it with a new one. But if that process sounds daunting to you, you can always hire someone to do the job for you.

What is the MERV Scale?

Anytime you look into air filters online, you’re likely to come across the MERV scale. MERV stands for minimum efficiency reporting value and refers to the standard system for rating air filters.Air filters with lower MERV scale ratings filter fewer particles. The opposite is true for air filters with a high MERV rating.

Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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