A closeup on two furnace filters side-by-side

Furnace filters bring various benefits to homeowners, regardless of whether it’s winter or summer. Unfortunately, they don’t last as long as we would like them to.

If you’re one of the growing many carbon footprint-conscious people, you’re likely wondering if and how you can recycle furnace filters.

In this post, we’ve outlined six steps that will help you discard and recycle old furnaces and air filters.

So, you can spend less time thinking and more time saving the planet by following them.

Steps To Recycle Furnace Filters 

Here are our six steps on how to recycle furnace and air filters: 

  1. Take the filter apart.
  2. Categorize your materials into groups.
  3. Research which materials are recyclable.
  4. Store the recyclables in proper bags or bins.
  5. Research recycling or collection services.
  6. Prepare for collection day.

For more in-depth information on these steps, and the do and don’ts of recycling furnace and air filters, keep reading.

1.) Take the Filter Apart

Start by taking your air filter apart layer by layer.

First, loosen the outer frame of the furnace or air filter—you can easily cut corners for a smoother disassembling process.

Be careful when dealing with sharp pieces, as they can easily pierce the skin. 

A homeowner prepares to separate the materials of a used furnace filter

Use tools such as scissors and precision knives to cut off stubborn pieces. A pair of pliers would also work for this.

As the layers of the furnace filter come off, the process should become more manageable. 

2.) Categorize Your Materials Into Groups

After taking your furnace or air filter apart, you’ll need to identify the different materials found in your filter. Each group will either be recyclable or non-recyclable. 

The recyclable materials are what you’re really on the hunt for!

Please pay close attention when sorting them, and remember to keep the materials in their groups, for example, cloth in one section, plastic in another, etc.

3.) Research Which Materials are Recyclable

Made from various materials, furnace and air filters can cause an unsettling amount of confusion regarding recycling.

Unfortunately, uncertainty is a leading cause of recycling neglect worldwide, so it’s essential first to determine if the furnace filter is recyclable.

Unfortunately, furnace filters consist of non-recyclable materials such as polyester and fiberglass, and only some tiny parts are recyclable.

However, the remaining materials can be recycled, such as cardboard and plastic.

It’s vital to separate the non-recyclable materials from the recyclable materials.

However, don’t get discouraged if you find that most of the materials are non-recyclable—plenty of organizations would be more than happy to collect your non-recyclable items and reuse them as-is. 

Knowing what materials are safe to be recycled can speed up the process and save recycling companies some time and effort.

Put non-recyclable materials aside and focus more on the recyclables.

If you’re unsure what materials are recyclable, refer to the table below.

RecyclableNon- Recyclable

4.) Store the Recyclables in Proper Bags or Bins

Although optional, storing each category in an eco-friendly bag or bin can help simplify the process of recycling and make it much neater and easier to control on collection day! 

There are plenty of eco-friendly bag options on the market, and they’re inexpensive! Using eco-friendly products helps lessen pollution and organizes your waste.

The more budget-friendly bags include:

  • Sugar wrap bags
  • Bioplastic

5.) Research Recycling or Collection Services

Every recycling service differs, so it’s important to remember that not all companies operate similarly.

Some might even have rules and guidelines to ensure the recycling process runs smoothly. 

Depending on your area, you can reach out to local recycling services to ask about their collection and recycling days or if they have any regulations or guidelines on how to recycle a specific group of materials.

Most recycling services will give you the exact day and time to collect the material.

A couple with laptops researches furnace filter recycling services

An alternative would be to contact your local furnace or air filter supplier and inquire whether they offer filter recycling services.

If you’re lucky, they’ll swap out the older filter material for a new filter and then proceed with the correct steps to recycle the old material.

6.) Prepare for Collection Day

With most of the work completed, you can now sit back and prepare for the big day!

Of course, it might feel silly to “prepare” for the day your collection service picks up your trash, but it has happened that people miss them or have the wrong date or time.

Make sure you write down the exact date and time on a calendar or insert a reminder on your smartphone. 

Place your recyclables on the street curb on the collection day, and don’t be late.

If no animals are roaming the streets, you can even put them out earlier. This way, you’ll prevent missing the pick-up time and be able to sit back and watch the magic of recycling happen.

The Dos and Don’ts of Recycling Furnace Filters

With any new experience, whether it be a project or recycling furnace filters for the first time, a reliable list of tips on what to do and what not to do is always helpful. 

Accidents can happen within seconds, and by following guidelines, you can effectively complete the furnace filter recycling process.

Read through these short and sweet dos and don’ts to help speed up the process and prevent any mishaps in furnace filter recycling.

DO Wear Protective Clothing

We can’t stress the importance of protective clothing enough!

Although, it might seem like an unnecessary step to include until you get fiberglass on your hands.

Materials such as fiberglass can cause unbearably sore rashes, and you won’t know it’s on you until it is too late.

To prevent rashes and uncomfortable itchiness from the material, you should wear protective gear, such as: 

  • Gloves
  • Masks
  • Protective glasses

These products are often very inexpensive and won’t take a bite out of your budget. Always put safety first!

DO Clean the Recyclables

Unfortunately, recycling services can recycle only clean and sanitary materials.

Be sure to wash and dry the filter materials before recycling them. If the filter is in a gruesome shape, you might want to reconsider recycling it.

DO Replace the Filter

Never leave your HVAC system without a filter! Instead, try to replace the filter as soon as possible.

Remembering to replace your furnace filter will benefit your HVAC system in the long run and prevent it from collecting debris inside. 

A homeowner replaces the furnace filter of his energy-efficient furnace

DO Close the Bags Properly

No material or debris will fall out by closing your recycling bags properly.

Try using tape to seal the opening of the bag for extra insurance. Tape is a beautiful way of sealing almost anything, especially plastic bags, since the adhesive sticks so well.

DO Consider Eco-Friendly Furnace Filters

Recycling air and furnace filters involves many strategic material removal and separation, and it takes time to complete.

So, you might wonder if there are ways to reduce recycling time and save a few bucks in the process?

Luckily, there are ways to stay eco-friendly and keep your air clean!

There are many environmentally friendly air and furnace filter options available on the market. Some of the big-name brands are K&N.

Products like the HVC-11220 HVAC filter are reusable and environmentally friendly to our Earth. 

By purchasing eco-friendly or reusable products, you can efficiently clean your air, save time, and cut down on your pollution and carbon footprint.

You can find plenty of different types of eco-friendly and reusable filters.

They’re available almost anywhere, and more designs and materials get tested and released every year!

Items like the K&N MERV 11 HVAC Furnace Air Filter are an excellent end-all-be-all replacement for disposable filters. This premium design filter improves air quality and helps increase the efficiency of your HVAC system.

Promo photo of the K&N MERV 11 HVAC Furnace Filter
Courtesy of Ubuy

Plus, it’s easily washed with a low-pressure hose for reuse again and again, helping to save you money and waste. 

DON’T Mix Materials

While sorting your materials, try to keep them in groups.

Mixing recyclable and non-recyclable material will confuse you and the person responsible for collecting it.

If necessary, label each bag with the name of the material to save time. 

Labeling is a necessary step to prevent any uncomfortable mishaps and ensure smooth sailing, or should I say recycling?!?

DON’T Mix Recyclables With Sharp Objects

Always keep sharp objects in their separate category, even if they’re recyclable!

You can effectively dispose of the sharp objects by placing them in a glass jar or thick plastic bag. 

Separating other materials from sharp objects prevents the shards from cutting or injuring anyone working with the material.

Getting cut or scratched by a contaminated sharp object can pose serious health risks. So stay safe and keep sharp objects separate.

Is Recycling Furnace Filters Worth the Trouble?

Most of the population knows about global warming and air, water, and land pollution.

However, recycling systems were only recently put into place, and with human nature being so caring, we want to make a significant change on Earth.

Since recycling furnace filters can be tiring due to the lengthy process and minimal output, some might even question whether it’s worth the trouble. 

Recycling is worth the trouble during every second of “strenuous” labor.

It reduces communities’ needs for raw materials during the manufacturing process.

Moreover, recycled products require less energy and resources to manufacture than products from virgin material.

How Recycling Helps the Environmental Impact of Pollution

Recycling is a process that involves collecting old materials and reusing them to create a new product.

So, consider recycling rather than just tossing your furnace filter in the trash. 

By recycling, we prevent further damage to our Earth and lessen global warming.

Although a bit more complex, recycling your old furnace filters can help make the change everyone wants to see in this world.

Not many people think about the impact throwing away recyclable materials has on our planet.

But, thanks to researchers concerned with the well-being of our world, it has been discovered that certain parts of your furnace filter can be effectively discarded with minimal damage to the Earth.

With any manufactured creation comes positive and negative impacts on the planet. And with more factories opening every year, you can never be sure of what to expect for our Earth’s future. 

Pollution has increased by a whopping 11% between 1980 and 2019 alone, even with recycling systems in place! And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

40% of the ocean’s surface is covered in plastic and waste—and this figure doesn’t account for the amount that sinks to the bottom.

Plastic objects floating in the ocean

Every day more and more damage is done to the Earth.

Due to a lack of education, few people know that by recycling materials such as furnace filters, glass bottles, and plastic, the carbon footprint can be reduced by a sustainable 30%. 

To see a change in the world, we as humans will need to take self-initiative and look after our planet.

After all, we only have one Earth. And thanks to researchers who dedicate their time to finding sustainable solutions to alarming problems, recycling can finally start making a difference! 

It only takes a few hours out of your week or month to recycle and drastically increases the chance of a cleaner Earth.

As sustainability advocate Annie Leonard once said, “There is no such thing as ‘away.’ When we throw anything away, it must go somewhere.”

Challenges of Recycling Furnace Filters With And Their Solutions

Let’s explore some of the challenges you might encounter in your quest to recycle your furnace filters and solutions.

  • Contamination: Filters often contain a mix of materials, including metals, fibers, and pollutants, making it difficult to separate and recycle them efficiently. The best solution for this problem is to incorporate proper disposal methods like segregation to prevent contamination.
  • Limited recycling facilities: It’s worth noting that not all recycling centers have the capability to process furnace filters. The solution is to have a collaboration between filter manufacturers and recycling facilities to create more dedicated centers for furnace filter recycling.
  • Transportation and collection: Efficient transportation and collection systems for used furnace filters may not be well-established. Consequently, this can result in logistical challenges for recycling initiatives. The solution is a collaboration between local waste management services and recycling programs to streamline the collection and transportation process.

Final Thoughts 

Replacing and removing your furnace filter is a process itself, but luckily, recycling doesn’t have to be. Researchers and recycling experts have made it easier to understand how recycling works and effectively reduces waste build-up, global warming, and pollution. 

Anyone can contribute to the earth-saving movement by recycling old materials such as furnace filters, plastic, metal, and cloth.

By following the tips and tricks provided on recycling filters, you can quickly and efficiently separate all the recyclable from non-recyclable material and recycle or dispose of the rest of the material.

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