How to Filter Water Without Plastic

filter water without plastic

Want to filter water without plastic? Rest assured, it can be done. In fact, one of the first things I ever did, when going zero waste, was filter water without plastic. You see, I really wanted a stainless steel water bottle, but they don’t come with built-in filters. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to the smoothest, purest drinking water, so filtering my water was essential for me. After doing a little research, I stumbled upon a zero waste water filter I could get behind: Charcoal sticks! It may sound odd at first, but did you know most filters, Brita pitchers included, rely on activated charcoal to filter water? So using charcoal sticks to purify your drinking water really isn’t that big of a leap. Plus, using a charcoal water filter will help you avoid tons of plastic – plastic water bottles, plastic pitchers, and even plastic faucet filters. Here’s how to filter water without plastic, and why you should to begin with.

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Why should I filter water without using plastic?

filter water without plastic

For starters? It’s bad for your health. Plastic will leech into your water over time, which can cause a variety of health issues. This includes cancer, reproductive issues, immune system suppression and even problems with childhood development. 

If that’s not reason enough to give up on plastic, there’s also the problem it’s terrible for our environment. Plastic pollutes our oceans, landfills and can even end up inside our food! Since only 9 percent of plastic is actually recycled, it’s evident recycling isn’t the answer. Rather, reducing our reliance on plastic is the way to go.

There’s also the fact plastic filters are a money drain. So are plastic water bottles! 

Back when I still drank from plastic water bottles, my mom would buy a new case every week. That really put a dent in our finances. Using charcoal sticks is really a great investment: You buy it once and it lasts you weeks, sometimes months!


How do I filter water without plastic?

filter water without plasticfilter water without plastic

It’s honestly really simple. Just use a charcoal water filter! My favorite is definitely Miyabi Charcoal. They use bamboo charcoal, an all-natural, zero waste alternative to man-made filters. 

Miyabi Charcoal sells two different kinds of bamboo charcoal: Regular sized pieces (for pitchers – pictured right) and skinny sized pieces (for narrow-mouthed containers – like water bottles – pictured left). I also love how it’s made from bamboo, a fast growing renewable resource.

There are other charcoal water filters to choose from too, such as Kishu sticks. Just one kishu stick can be used for 4 months! Kishu sticks are made from the branches of oak trees, opposed to bamboo.

How does it work? 

filter water without plastic

If you intend on using bamboo charcoal like me, here’s how to activate and use it.

First, you’ll have to rinse off 3 to 4 pieces of the bamboo charcoal. Then you boil them for five minutes (this activates the sticks), remove them from the water and allow them to dry. After that, you just add them to your water and let it sit (you can put it in the fridge during this time) for at least one hour. I usually let mine sit for several hours. The container you use must be glass or stainless steel – this is very important.

You can reuse the charcoal sticks over and over again. They usually last about 4 to 6 weeks, but I’ve used mine for several months without any problems. Just pour water over them, let it sit for about an hour, and it’ll purify your water. 

Activated charcoal is amazing because it bonds with toxins. The sticks literally remove chlorine, copper, mercury and even lead from water. It doesn’t remove fluoride though, so don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of fluoride without needing it in your toothpaste.

I do recommend re-boiling the charcoal sticks once a month for 10 to 15 minutes though, if you want it to last you several months. This will release any toxins built up in the charcoal water filter you’re using. 

How do you dispose of charcoal water filters?

filter water without plastic

Simple. You can just compost it, or bury it in your garden. Just smash up the charcoal stick and mix it into the soil. It will support microorganisms, enhance water and oxygen retention in soil, and make your plants happy! 

You could also get some more use out of the sticks once they’re at the end of their life. Try using them as deodorizers. You can keep one in your fridge, under your dog’s kennel, by your shoes, or anywhere that needs help with odor control.

Another thing I love about Miyabi Charcoal? It comes in compostable packaging, made from 100 percent recycled kraft paper.

filter water without plastic

What’s your favorite way to filter water without plastic? Would you give charcoal sticks a try?

For more zero waste kitchen tips, check out these 5 zero waste alternatives to plastic wrap, or my top 10 zero waste kitchen swaps.

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By Ariana Storniolo (Palmieri)

Ariana Storniolo is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste and sustainability. Her work has also been featured on Going Zero Waste, Green Matters, Mother Earth Living and several other online publications.


  1. So happy you enjoyed my post! 🙂 Haha, I hear you – I'm always motivating my boyfriend to do the same! Last Christmas I got him a charcoal filter for his water bottle and he loved it. 😀 I'm sure your boyfriend will too! The difference in taste is amazing – the charcoal sticks really purify it and make it taste sooo smooth!

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