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As pollen filters are recent additions to the average car I suspect ther're not essential. Maybe they do offer hayfever suffers some protection and protect the A/C system from getting clogged up, I don't know.
Do you mean the plastic cover held in place with the screw, or what you found after removing the cover?
I'm no expert but when I removed mine the strip attached to the bottom of the filter was very flimsy indeed. Are you sure you haven't pulled it off the filter and left the main part of the filter still inside?
I made up a bent bit of wire to hook mine out with, but it was quite tight.
Currently in Charenton's garage:
2000 Renault Scenic 1.6 Alize