Good and not-so-good news on Brita water filters | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now Austin News, Weather, Traffic KEYE-TV Austin - HOME
Jan 152009

By John DeFore

Last October we reported on a push to convince the makers of household water filters, particularly the Clorox-owned Brita, to set up programs to recycle their products, which aren’t accepted by any kind of municipal recycling programs.

The following month, Brita announced just such a plan, which finally goes into effect this month: In conjunction with Preserve’s Gimme 5 program, which focuses on recycling #5 plastics, Brita filters can now either be mailed back for recycling or (for those lucky enough to live near a location) dropped off at one of these participating Whole Foods stores.

Brita’s PR representative Mollie Bridgeman says that “Preserve hopes to enroll additional stores in the program in the coming months.”

But she couldn’t get the company to say anything substantial about another green issue concerning their products: The “Electronic Filter Change Indicator” found on some of the pitchers Brita sells for use with its filters.

The indicator is a small digital-watch-type device, built into the pitcher’s lid, that tells you when to replace the used filter with a new one. Users may assume the gizmo is somehow measuring how much water has passed through the filter — each one is supposed to be good for 40 gallons — but in fact it’s just a timer set to go off after two months (the average time a family takes to use 40 gallons, according to Brita) have elapsed.

Reminding users when two months have passed doesn’t require an electronic device or the environmentally-unfriendly battery it uses. Some filter-using coffeemakers have little plastic knobs that accomplish the same thing more directly with no electricity.

Moreover, since the battery is sealed inside the pitcher it can’t be replaced when it dies. When it stops working, nothing else on the pitcher serves as a replacement reminder; the average owner will probably toss the whole pitcher and buy a new one.

A cynic might guess that’s exactly the point, and he wouldn’t get much help from Brita, who had this to say about their planned-obsolescence gadget: “The digital Electronic Filter Change Indicator that is used on some pitchers is a reliable, user-friendly way for consumers to see when their filter is ready to be changed. Additionally, the battery lasts for approximately five years.”

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