What Are the Most Eco-friendly Types of Water Filters?

Posted by
John Woodard on April 13, 2022

While water is a renewable resource, the way water is filtered can leave behind a sizeable carbon footprint. Many water filters are made of some form of plastic, and recycling them may be more difficult than just placing them in your recycling bin. In fact, many water filters are not recyclable at all. However, whether they can be recycled or not, many water filters efficiently clean water and need few replacements because of their long lifespans. This keeps the system out of landfills and in your home for longer and leaves behind less environmental impact. Below you can find out what makes a water filter environmentally friendly, what types of water filters are eco-friendly, and what kinds of filters are more harmful to the environment than others.

What makes a water filter eco-friendly?

An eco-friendly water filter utilizes more water, wastes fewer materials, and lasts longer than other filters. Regardless of what type of water filter you use, using one is much more environmentally friendly than buying water in plastic bottles. Even the shortest-lasting water pitcher filters replace around 300 plastic water bottles. When it comes to saving plastic, some filtration systems have an environmental advantage over others. Ceramic filters, for example, can be cleaned and reused for longer than other filtration systems. As a result, less product is thrown away over the lifespan of the filter. Reverse osmosis filters, on the other hand, cannot filter 100% of the water that feeds into the system. Some water must be used to wash away contaminants that are filtered, so it goes down the drain rather than into a storage tank. Eco-friendly reverse osmosis systems make more water reach the final product and less wash down the drain.

What makes a reverse osmosis filter environmentally friendly?

Reverse osmosis (RO) systems are one of the most popular home water filtration solutions on the market because of their effectiveness at reducing harmful contaminants in water. They filter water in at least three stages: a sediment filter, a carbon pre-filter, and a semipermeable membrane. Many “four stage” reverse osmosis systems also employ a carbon post-filter, and some may even add a fifth remineralizing filter to add alkalinity back into the water. Both the sediment filter and carbon pre-filter should be replaced every 6 to 12 months, and the RO membrane should be replaced once every two years. Compared to conventional water pitcher filters, RO filters contain significantly less plastic. As a result, RO filters are typically not recycled and can be safely disposed of in the garbage.

Another environmental component of RO systems is wastewater. In an RO system, water is placed under pressure and passed through a semipermeable membrane. When contaminants get caught by the membrane, they need to be washed away to prevent the system from clogging. RO systems use incoming water to wash contaminants trapped by the membrane down the drain. The efficiency of an RO system varies greatly depending on water pressure, quality of the system, and whether the system is designed for residential, commercial, or industrial use. The most environmentally friendly RO systems utilize the most water while wasting the least amount of plastic.

Another way to make your RO system more environmentally friendly is to utilize a permeate pump with your system. A permeate pump keeps a reverse osmosis system efficient by preventing pressure in the water storage tank from slowing down the system’s membrane. This allows the system to utilize more water in the filtration process and causes less wastewater from going down the drain.

Best reverse osmosis filters

1. Everpure MRS-600HE High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis

The Everpure MRS-600HE High Efficiency Reverse Osmosis Water Filter System is a commercial filter used for applications such as coffee brewers, espresso machines, and steamers. Unlike traditional RO systems, where anywhere from 20% to 60% of water reaches the final product, this system turns up to 80% of supply water into a drinkable form.

2. Pentair FreshPoint GRO-575M 5-Stage Monitored Reverse Osmosis System

The Pentair FreshPoint GRO-575M 5-Stage Monitored Reverse Osmosis System is a quality residential RO system. This system contains a special chemical reduction cartridge that reduces lead levels in drinking water. The Pentair FreshPoint GRO-575M also comes with a monitor to remind you when it is time to change the filter and to monitor the levels of total dissolved solids (TDS) in your water. The GRO membrane technology in this system increases filtration efficiency by using less water to eliminate waste.

What makes a ceramic filter environmentally friendly?

Ceramic filters are an affordable and effective water filtration solution for homes. They are used in countertop, under-sink, and gravity-fed applications. Ceramic filters contain pores as small as 0.5 microns that catch debris as water passes through. These pores effectively reduce most bacteria, sediment, and turbidity in water. Ceramic filters are one of the best filtration options for the environment because they can be repeatedly washed and reused. Ceramic filters that do not contain a carbon core can be cleaned and used until water no longer flows through them. This benefit of ceramic filters not only benefits your wallet, but it also helps the environment by less material being wasted.

Best ceramic filters

3. AquaCera Twin HCP Countertop Drinking Water Filter System

The AquaCera Twin HCP Countertop Drinking Water Filter System is a quality countertop ceramic filtration unit that reduces fluoride, lead, arsenic, VOC’s, zinc, chlorine, and many more harmful contaminants. This system also reduces fluoride levels in water, a municipally-added contaminant that some homeowners wish to remove from their drinking water. Its long lifespan means less product is wasted than other filtration systems.

4. Doulton HIP2 Twin UnderCounter Drinking Water System

The Doulton HIP2 Twin UnderCounter Drinking Water System is an excellent under-sink ceramic water filtration system that greatly reduces levels of pathogenic bacteria, cysts, sediment, organic chemicals, lead, and foul tastes from water. It needs replacement after producing 1500 gallons of filtered water, making it an eco-friendly filtration option.

What makes an activated carbon filter environmentally friendly?

Activated carbon filters require replacement more often than other filtration systems, but they do not contain plastic. If wasting plastic is a primary concern of yours with water filters, activated carbon filters are an excellent option. Activated carbon filters must be replaced once every six months to one year and should never be used for more than a year. If the pores of a carbon filter fill up, they can break away from the carbon and enter the water supply. Carbon filters use adsorption, a process where contaminants cling to the carbon inside a filter, to reduce harmful elements in water. Once the carbon adsorbs all the contaminants it is able to, the filter must be replaced to ensure water quality. Activated carbon filters are common in reverse osmosis systems and refrigerator filters, as well as whole-house filtration systems.

Coconut shell carbon blocks are also a great eco-friendly choice because they are made with renewable resources. These carbon filters are made of coconut shells, so they are environmentally friendly in their production. Coconuts can be harvested year-round, making them practical for use as a filter material.  Not only are they more environmentally friendly than other options, but coconut shells have a higher hardness and resist abrasion better than any other type.

Best activated carbon filter

5. Neo-Pure CTO1-4520

The Neo-Pure CTO1-4520 consists of a coconut shell carbon core. It is ideal for use as a pre-filter or post-filter for an under-sink reverse osmosis system but can also be used to filter water for commercial and food and beverage applications. Boasting a filter life of 32,000 gallons, the Neo-Pure CTO1-4520 lasts longer than many other RO-compatible carbon filters. The coconut shell and long filter life make this filter an eco-friendly addition to your reverse osmosis system.

What are the least eco-friendly water filters?

No matter what type of water filter you use, it will be more environmentally friendly than buying water in plastic bottles. Almost 500 billion plastic bottles are used worldwide in a year, leading to an abundance of waste that leaves a sizeable carbon footprint. While all water filters are better than bottled water from an environmental standpoint, not all are created equal.

Water pitcher filters are one of the least eco-friendly filtration options available. They are appealing to consumers because they do not require complicated installation or a large sum of money, but they do require changing much more often than other filtration systems. Water pitcher filters should be replaced around once for every 40 gallons of water filtered. Compared to an activated carbon filter, which needs to be replaced once every six months to one year, more often than most other filter types, water pitcher filters waste significantly more material than other filtration systems. Pitcher filters also contain more plastic than other filter types, making the waste they produce more harmful to the environment.

Water softeners are great at removing water hardness, but some of these systems may be harmful to the environment. Salt-based ion exchange water softeners produce chloride that is released into either a sewer or septic system. As a result, chloride enters rivers and lakes, where high levels are detrimental to marine life. An environmental benefit of water softeners is their ability to make other systems function more efficiently. Reverse osmosis systems, for example, can become clogged due to hardness in the water supply. Adding a water softener to a reverse osmosis system helps waste less water by helping the RO system remove contaminants before going through the RO membrane. While water softeners can be harmful to the environment, they are necessary for applications where water hardness is a serious concern, such as those who get their water from a well.



If you have any additional questions about water filtration systems and their effects, please do not hesitate to contact our experts.


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