Zero Waste Charcoal Water Filter

Photograph by Tala Parker

Photograph by Tala Parker

Recently, I bought charcoal water filters from Package Free Shop for $22 to use in my water bottle. The bamboo charcoal is culled from sustainably forested land and burned by craftsman in the Japanese countryside. Charcoal filters improve water taste and removes impurities. Tests show that they absorb ammonia, lead, mercury, cadmium, copper, chloramine, chlorine and chlorides from water. The bamboo charcoal sticks last for a few weeks and can be composted at the end of their life. I was interested in trying them because I often drink tap water and wanted to filter out any harmful chemicals that may be in it.

I received my charcoal water filters in an oversized cardboard box. While I’m glad they were packaged in a recyclable box with no plastic tape, it’s unfortunate that the box was so large, resulting in the product getting sliding and bouncing more and also a higher shipping carbon footprint because it takes up more space. However, this is probably just because Package Free Shop is still a young company. Hopefully they’ll have more box sizes in the future.

Photograph by Tala Parker

Photograph by Tala Parker

The bamboo charcoal filters themselves came in a thin cardboard envelope/box and were wrapped in reused newspaper. When I unrolled the newspaper, charcoal dust coated both the charcoal sticks as well as the newspaper itself. To clean them I boiled the sticks for five minutes per the instructions and dried them with a cloth towel.

Photograph by Tala Parker

Photograph by Tala Parker

Using the charcoal filters is easy enough. You simply drop them into your water bottle and leave them. However, I was confused by how long it takes the filters to adequately clean the water. The package says to leave the sticks in the water for an hour (which is way too long for me as I usually drink a whole bottle in the time I’d have to be waiting for the water to be filtered), while the Package Free site says that within minutes the filters will affect the taste and quality of the water. Regardless of how long I let the charcoal filters work, I actually didn’t notice a change in taste. Further still, the charcoal clanked around in my bottle every time I moved it or went to drink out of it. Even worse, if I wasn’t careful when trying to drink the last few inches of water I’d get a stick lodged halfway down my mouth.

Overall, I wouldn’t recommend buying the charcoal filters. I found that they didn’t improve the taste of the water and also were an annoyance to have in my water bottle. I’m also still skeptical of their ability to remove toxins from the water which was my main reason for buying them.