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Brita Finds New Life for Used Water Filters

Household product maker Recycline will begin collecting used Brita water filters next year, turning them into toothbrushes, bowls and other items.

In Europe, Brita has recycled used water filters since the early '90s. Starting next year, U.S. consumers will also be able to send their used Brita filters somewhere other than a landfill.

In January 2009, household product maker Recycline will begin accepting used Brita pitcher filters. The company, founded in 1996, collects plastic marked number 5 (polypropylene plastic), recycling it into Preserve brand toothbrushes, cups, cutting boards, mixing bowls and other personal care and kitchen products.

Recycline's Gimme 5 program accepts any number 5 plastic through the mail, and beginning in January the company will have drop-off bins at select Whole Foods Markets, where customers will be able to leave any number 5 plastics, including Brita pitcher filters.

The plastic from the filter's casing will be used to make Preserve products, and the filter parts - activated carbon and ion-exchange resin - will be regenerated for alternative use or converted into energy.

Since January this year, the activist Take Back the Filter campaign has been pushing Brita to recycle used filters in North America. The campaign collected almost 550 filters, and plans to deliver them to Brita in January.

In North and South America, Brita is run by Clorox. In the rest of the world, Brita is a separate company headquartered in Germany, and has been recycling household filters in Europe since 1992. Consumers return filters to dealers or distributors, which send the filters to Brita. The company has its own recycling department, which grinds the plastic down into granulate and provides it to the plastic industry for reuse. The activated carbon is returned to its manufacturer, which reactivates it or reuses it for wastewater treatment. Brita keeps the ion-exchange resin, regenerating it to its full performance capacity and reusing it in filters.

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