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Conrad . Marvin
22-Mar-2017, 18:03
Does anyone know anything about disposal of photographic waste (i.e.....silver in fixer) without putting it down the drain which is irresponsible and illegal? I am setting up a new darkroom after moving and wish to be environmentally responsible in my new digs.
Thanks

Len Middleton
22-Mar-2017, 18:18
Your question is a little too broad...

What processes and what chemicals are you looking at disposing?

Conrad . Marvin
22-Mar-2017, 18:22
I think that fixer is the main problem because it is not legal (federal) to put silver down the drain.

neil poulsen
22-Mar-2017, 18:27
Probably depends on the state. Oregon helps to subsidize chemical wastes for small businesses.

Another possibility is to find a local darkroom or lab that reclaims the silver. Check to see if a school or college has a darkroom. They will likely have some way of disposing of the silver.

Conrad . Marvin
22-Mar-2017, 18:44
Thanks, I have some college connections (Amherst, Ma), but just wanted to get as many ideas as I could before starting the involved process of making a new darkroom.

Ron789
22-Mar-2017, 18:53
There's a difference between illegal and irresponsible. Illegal depends on local legislation.
Irresponsible: B&W film developer and all fixer should be disposed of in a way that ensures proper handling and if possible recycling. Stop bath is quite innocent, you can flush it down the drain. B&W paper developer is not very harmful; I flush it down the drain. I don't do color but I believe most color chemicals are pretty or even very harmful so they should be disposed of in a careful way.

jnanian
22-Mar-2017, 18:55
There's a difference between illegal and irresponsible. Illegal depends on local legislation.
Irresponsible: B&W film developer and all fixer should be disposed of in a way that ensures proper handling and if possible recycling. Stop bath is quite innocent, you can flush it down the drain. B&W paper developer is not very harmful; I flush it down the drain. I don't do color but I believe most color chemicals are pretty or even very harmful so they should be disposed of in a careful way.

you are right ...
waste management is a local thing. what might be OK to do in one town isn't the next town over. usually the threshold for silver in the waste stream is more than 5 parts/million ( federal )
usually places suggest mixing the dev, stop fix remover together in a sink full of water to dilute it more is Ok ( it is a ph thing ) but some places don't even want people to do that.
and some places want below 3 parts / million or even NOTHING down the drain. it all depends ...
irresponsible... people do what they want and make up a narritive to go along with it afterwards
... i know of people who use KCn instead of speed fixer for collodion work and they either pour it down the drain or pour it in their back yard because they claim it is OK and that is what they were taught, oh well ...

===

hi conrad

i have been a regular contributor since 2001 ...
i don't advertise here but feel free to contact me
about silver recovery ... i sell "stuff" ....
i sell affordable electrolytic stuff ( gets you down to about 50 ppm ( parts / million )
and i also sell ionic transfer stuff ( can get you to below 1 parts / million )

john

Barry Kirsten
22-Mar-2017, 21:25
A simple way to remove silver from used fixer is to place some aluminium foil in it. The silver precipitates and can then be filtered out. In the process the aluminium is used up. Once you get enough silver it can be sold.

neil poulsen
22-Mar-2017, 22:23
. . . Another possibility is to find a local darkroom or lab that reclaims the silver. Check to see if a school or college has a darkroom. They will likely have some way of disposing of the silver.

The point being, you might be able to work out a deal with them to take your used fixer as well. Our local Pacific University had a darkroom and was willing to take my used fixer. They in turn had a similar relationship with someone in Salem.

Doremus Scudder
23-Mar-2017, 02:55
Developers and stop baths can usually go down the drain after being diluted. Although local regulations may vary, most have a provision for low-volume users (do check though).

The main problem is the silver in the used fixer. Some localities allow small amounts of used fixer to be disposed in the municipal sewer system. Still this is not optimal. The best solution is to find somehow to recover the silver first. In my case, I take my fixer to a local photofinisher for silver recovery. They're happy to get it since they get to keep the profits from the recovered silver. As mentioned, university photo departments might also have silver-recovery services they would be happy to share.

In lieu of this, I would resort to some method of removing silver myself (steel wool, or jnanian's silver recovery system). My experiences with the HazMat people when taking used fixer to them were unsatisfying and, frankly, ridiculous. They put on isolation suits and labeled my used fixer for incineration (wow, that's really good for the environment...). They had absolutely no idea of silver recovery. They were shocked when I told them I actually put my hands into it...

FWIW, Kodak's publication on chemical disposal is here: http://www.kodak.com/eknec/documents/05/0900688a800f8105/J300ENG.pdf

Best,

Doremus

jnanian
23-Mar-2017, 03:32
A simple way to remove silver from used fixer is to place some aluminium foil in it. The silver precipitates and can then be filtered out. In the process the aluminium is used up. Once you get enough silver it can be sold.
then what do you do with the aluminium-saturated water ?
are there problems with having aluminium in the septic / sewer system / ground water ?

koraks
23-Mar-2017, 10:24
They put on isolation suits and labeled my used fixer for incineration (wow, that's really good for the environment...).
Incineration actually could make perfect sense, depending on the scrubbers/cleaning methods of exhaust gas used. In any case, it may very well be a lot more environmentally friendly than flushing it down the drain.

tgtaylor
23-Mar-2017, 10:41
I would do a google search for Household Hazardous Waste disposal sites in your county. Here in Alameda County we have 4: http://www.stopwaste.org/recycling/residents/household-hazardous-waste/fremont-hhw-facility

They accept photo chemicals as long as they are in leak-proof containers with the contents identified. You just fill out the form which can be downloaded on the website, hand it to the worker and pop the trunk and they take it out and place on a sorting table. That's all there is to it here.

Thomas

David Lobato
23-Mar-2017, 11:45
I'm very familiar with using and disposing of normal B&W darkroom chemicals. But, what about the chemicals used in alternate processes? There are Dichromates, and Potassium Ferrocyanide, among others, that one needs to be careful with when handling. What are the proper disposal protocols for these? This is the main reason I have not tried alternate processes.

jp
23-Mar-2017, 11:54
For alt process, I've avoided Dichromates because I use a septic system and don't want that in my soil. Some people say there are ways to neutralize that, but I haven't heard anything authoritative enough to change my mind.

Fixer I save and use jnanian's silver maget to remove silver before dumping it.

I don't use selenium toner, but that would be a good thing to recycle.

Developer goes down the drain.

I use water stop bath.

Potassium Ferrocyanide is not toxic.

tgtaylor
23-Mar-2017, 11:59
They accept alt chemistry here in California. I haven't inquired about uranium nitrate but I suspect that then will also accept that also but I intend on using all of it.

Thomas

Maris Rusis
23-Mar-2017, 13:01
I've had the luck to enjoy a career in scientific research and analytical chemistry before taking up photography full time. One of my challenges was teaching chemists at the local water supply and sewerage department about photographic chemicals in the effluent they had to treat. The "no fixer down the drain" anxiety comes up about a hundred times a year and has been doing so for at least half a century.

The rules about disposal of photochemicals are driven by fear and ignorance about "chemicals". Even Kodak publication J-300 which is the de facto last word on "fixer down the drain" is more about avoiding legal disputes and less about chemistry.

The following does not apply to industrial scale photo materials manufacturing or a major processing lab, only households connected to a sewer line or a proper septic system:

Developers are mild reducing agents that oxidise rapidly to inert components. The BOD (Biological Oxygen Demand) challenge offered by a home darkroom is much (very much!) smaller than the BOD from a single dishwasher, in-sink garbage disposal unit, or a toilet.

Stop bath is a very mild acid that has no measurable effects on highly buffered systems like septic tanks or sewerage treatment plants.

In moderate quantities (ounces, not tons) silver tetrathionate and similar compounds which characterise used fixer can't and don't harm sewerage treatment systems or septic systems. The silver very quickly gets converted to silver sulphide in the presence of the free sulphide ion (smells like rotten eggs!). Silver sulphide is geologically (millions of years) stable and biologically inert and has one of the lowest solubility products known in chemistry. The stability and inertness of silver sulphide is the key to the remarkable archival properties of sepia toned photographs.

Do your own calculations. Just estimate your yearly use of silver from your photographic materials consumption, allow 1 milligram per square inch, and divide this by your yearly water consumption from the water meter. I bet it's in the parts per billion range where no conceivable biological effect can be credibly imagined. I did this for my own darkroom and found a value of 0.5ppb which is about the same as the local river water.

If you are discharging into a sewer system your used fixer contribution will be diluted by thousands of household that don't do photographic processing; that's just about everybody. Down at the treatment plant your speck of silver won't be detectable by any known analytical technique. People washing silverware in their dishwashers or polishing silver or EPNS plate will send down incomparably more silver than you will ever do. The cohort of people who are into the health fad of adding colloidal silver to drinking water excrete more silver (legally!) than a rare home darkroom.

Perhaps it is worth being anxious about putting home darkroom effluent down the drain because the harm you could encounter would take the form of prosecution and penalty. A scofflaw could tip all their small scale photo-chemistry down the drain, never get caught, and do no harm to anything. The decision is maybe more about morality than chemistry

rob4x5
23-Mar-2017, 13:28
Thanks for posting this. It has been my thinking all along. I have been pouring my chems down the drain for years with no problems to my septic system.

jnanian
23-Mar-2017, 13:31
people often quote j-300 as if it were written yesterday by kodak
it was written almost 20 years ago .. and kodak changed their tune in 2005
http://web.archive.org/web/20160615035440/http://www.kodak.com/global/en/professional/support/techPubs/ak3/ak3.pdf
they say not to put anything down the drain ( septic ) and follow local regulations (sewer) ...

ben_hutcherson
23-Mar-2017, 14:19
I am an analytical chemist, and my university's hazardous waste department and I are always working together to negotiate sink disposal of chemical waste with the sewer department. We finally got them to relent on the huge volumes of acid/base titration waste from freshman teaching labs. When HCl and NaOH are titrated to a neutralish pH(neutralish depending on how good the student is, but generally not over 8 or under 6) we're disposing of salt water-it was asinine to have to dispose of 100+ gallons of saltwater through our normal disposal channels. We do another experiment where the students use Congo Red in low concentrations-this is the same coloring agent used in Big Red Cream Soda.

I would not and do not bat an eye over putting developer down the drain(at home). The compounds used will not hurt the bacteria in the disposal plant, and they may even like them :) . I use D76 one shot, so am usually dumping 16 oz. of either straight D76 or 1:1 down the drain at a time. I would worry about fixer if I had a septic tank as that's a small enough volume that the silver can upset the ecosystem in it, but a quart of fixer down the drain(that's the quantity I mix and then use to exhaustion) won't hurt the treatment plant. With that said, I do recover my silver and am waiting until I have enough to make selling it viable. By the time I dump my fixer, it tends to have a fair bit in it.

Ron789
23-Mar-2017, 18:11
Maris Rusis, thanks for posting this!
So... I really shouldn't worry about the environmental impact of disposing my (quite minimal) used B&W chemicals?
I always bring my fixer and film developer to the cities recycling center, but according to your information, the CO2 impact of driving there might be more harmful than the disposal of the chemicals.
But what about the recycling? Silver is a precious metal so I would expect that recycling this will have a positive impact on the environment. On the other hand... recycling requires energy and materials, starting with me driving my car to the cities recycling center.
Considering the environmental cost of the handling, transport and recycling of photo chemicals on one side and the benefits of recycling and avoiding pollution on the other side.... what would be the bottom line balance for someone like me, disposing some 20 litres of developer and fixer per year?

jnanian
23-Mar-2017, 18:28
LOL
i love threads like this ...
if the internet was around in the 1990s when
one of my colleagues/local pro was fined $10K x 10 days ( yes that's $100,000 )
for being "non compliant" i would have loved to have
seen the peoples' face who would have fined him
when he says " i read a thread on the internet
and a couple of chemists posted this thing about how
dumping my waste was OK so i did what they suggested was OK, they even posted
a 20 year old article that kodak published** saying it was OK "
i am sure they would have laughed a good laugh

** j-300 was written when kodak was one of the, or THE largest polluter in the usa.
the updated publication was published after they paid tens of millions of dollars in fines for polluting.

ben_hutcherson
23-Mar-2017, 20:16
LOL
i love threads like this ...
if the internet was around in the 1990s when
one of my colleagues/local pro was fined $10K x 10 days ( yes that's $100,000 )
for being "non compliant" i would have loved to have
seen the peoples' face who would have fined him
when he says " i read a thread on the internet
and a couple of chemists posted this thing about how
dumping my waste was OK so i did what they suggested was OK, they even posted
a 20 year old article that kodak published** saying it was OK "
i am sure they would have laughed a good laugh

** j-300 was written when kodak was one of the, or THE largest polluter in the usa.
the updated publication was published after they paid tens of millions of dollars in fines for polluting.

There's a difference between home use and a commercial operation.

I'm pretty sure that if you're a pro operating out of your home, you have to follow pertinent disposal regulations. It's DEFINITELY if you hang a shingle as a pro photographer in a non-residential location.

At my work, we are diligent about waste and self report even accidental discharges into the drain. Before we phased out mercury thermometers in lower level teaching labs(grudgingly) we'd have a couple of broken ones a semester and it was almost inevitable that at least one would end up with a bead or two rolling into the drain. Despite the fact that elemental mercury in sewer water is basically benign and also will stay in the sink trap until the end of time, we'd still report it.

BTW, our waste co-ordinator still talks about when they decomissioned the oldest part of the university hospital. She talks about the workers pulling out sink traps that weighed 50lbs because of all of the mercury in them. Apparently it was SOP with broken thermometers at one time to wash the mercury down the sink, and something like a sphygmomanometer can have several ounces of mercury.

Doremus Scudder
24-Mar-2017, 02:56
Maris,

Thanks for your response. I'm not a chemist and cannot speak with the authority you can, but really wanted to say about the same thing.

Silver recovery makes sense if it's easy (e.g., photofinisher in the area, etc.) but if not, down the drain it goes for me, especially after my hazmat experience with fixer. FWIW, I routinely disposed of relatively small amounts of fixer and other photochemicals into a septic system for years with no ill effects whatsoever.

As for selenium toner, I replenish and reuse and never have to dump any (just what comes out in the wash).


Best,

Doremus

jnanian
24-Mar-2017, 04:14
There's a difference between home use and a commercial operation.

hi ben

in the eyes of the people who enforce the laws there isn't a difference at all.

Conrad . Marvin
24-Mar-2017, 17:39
This has continued to be really fun, I had no idea when I asked the original question that there would be so much interest and even controversy on this subject. It is a great way to learn......getting people to talk about things. Thanks for the input and let's keep it going.i think that it is an important subject.

jnanian
25-Mar-2017, 14:58
this thread makes me wonder, when the epa is dismantled, and the clean water act cancelled can someone
who turns their front yard into a wet plate studio ( equipt with a cyan blue lawn from dumping KCn so they look like
their house was built on an old gasworks ) be able to claim they only respnd to federal laws (or lack of them ! ) and disregard local laws
when the LOCAL/STATE/COMMONWEALTH-EPA Enforcement police come with the space suits and hand cuffs .. i seem to remember some guy in florida
recently claiming personal dominion ( i think that is what it is called ) when he broke some sort of law claiming it didn't pertain to him.

mfohl
26-Mar-2017, 02:39
Two possibilities: Columbus has a "household hazardous waste" collection facility. You can drop off old car batteries, toxic household cleaners, etc. They take fixer, as long as it's in "small" amounts. Like a gallon or two every few months. You shouldn't have more than that.

Also, universities or other organizations that have somewhat large darkrooms will have facilities for taking the silver out of the fixer. Sometimes they'll let amateur folks like us bring their fixer in and dump it.

williaty
26-Mar-2017, 14:56
Two possibilities: Columbus has a "household hazardous waste" collection facility. You can drop off old car batteries, toxic household cleaners, etc. They take fixer, as long as it's in "small" amounts. Like a gallon or two every few months. You shouldn't have more than that.

Also, universities or other organizations that have somewhat large darkrooms will have facilities for taking the silver out of the fixer. Sometimes they'll let amateur folks like us bring their fixer in and dump it.

Important note: Columbus won't take waste if you live outside Franklin County. Even though I could throw a stone and have it land in the City and we pay taxes to the city because my wife works at OSU, we still can't take waste to any of the Columbus sites because we're about half an inch into Licking County. Sadly, Licking County doesn't have any waste disposal sites for homeowners. Our only legal recourse is to contract a HAZMAT disposal company at great expense.

Ron789
26-Mar-2017, 18:11
Also, universities or other organizations that have somewhat large darkrooms will have facilities for taking the silver out of the fixer. Sometimes they'll let amateur folks like us bring their fixer in and dump it.

Interesting.... in the USA there are still universities, schools, art schools, communities, companies operating darkrooms? Over here (Netherlands, and I think most of Europe) that time is long gone. There are only very few darkrooms left, mostly operated by amateurs or idealists. All (art) schools and other institutes went 100% digital many years ago. Darkrooms have been dismantled and dumped or sold at bargain proces. I bought the complete professional darkroom inventory (7 high-end Durst enlargers and lots more) of the Royal Art Academy in The Hague 3 years back; it hadn't been used for many years, it took me half a day to load it into a rented van and it costed me only some 400 bucks.
Sounds like you guys in the USA are lucky, with still quite some institutional darkrooms around.
Regarding disposal of photo chemicals: here I'm lucky. My city still collects and recycles developer and fixer, so I go there twice a year. However, reading the comments of some experts (chemical engineers) in this thread, I'm wondering whether that is still worth the effort. Driving my car there might be more harmful to the environment that flushing everything down the drain, especially since waste water purification over here is at a very high level so no chemicals will ever reach the "wider" environment. I have some 15 1-litre bottles of developer and fixer waiting to be brought to the recycling station but now I'm wondering whether it might be better to the environment to flush them down the drain....

williaty
26-Mar-2017, 19:34
Interesting.... in the USA there are still universities, schools, art schools, communities, companies operating darkrooms?
From talking to the university professors I still know, it seems like many universities did close their darkrooms in the mid to late 2000s but now, a decade later, are opening new (much smaller) ones in the last few years to treat traditional silver-based photography as a fine art medium (like, say, oil painting) or as an alternative process (like cyanotype, platinum printing, etc)

ben_hutcherson
29-Mar-2017, 18:55
From talking to the university professors I still know, it seems like many universities did close their darkrooms in the mid to late 2000s but now, a decade later, are opening new (much smaller) ones in the last few years to treat traditional silver-based photography as a fine art medium (like, say, oil painting) or as an alternative process (like cyanotype, platinum printing, etc)

I can make a couple of observations.

There are four colleges/universities in my town, and I work at the largest one(state school).

I have walked past the art building and smelled "darkroom smells" coming out of an exhaust fan.

Second, the two major camera stores here in town stock film, paper, and related supplies. I spend most of my time at a small, crowded used shop where I never know what I'm going to turn up(and also spend plenty of time just sitting and chatting). By nature of being a used camera shop, they normally only have the expired film that comes in with cameras(the 200 sheets of Ektapan in my freezer thank them for that). With that said, he does stock TMAX-100 and Ilford 8x10 resin coated VC paper. I was rummaging on the darkroom shelf the other day and pulled out a pack of 35mm printfile pages, and he begged me not to buy them as it was his last one and he needed it for the students(he sells them individually, and I didn't realize it was open).

Conrad . Marvin
2-Apr-2017, 17:30
I will in the future have those "darkroom smells" coming from my exhaust fan and thank all for the input in how to deal with the chemistry that we as traditional Photographers must use.

alberto_zh
2-Apr-2017, 23:20
Maris,

Thanks for your response. I'm not a chemist and cannot speak with the authority you can, but really wanted to say about the same thing.

Silver recovery makes sense if it's easy (e.g., photofinisher in the area, etc.) but if not, down the drain it goes for me, especially after my hazmat experience with fixer. FWIW, I routinely disposed of relatively small amounts of fixer and other photochemicals into a septic system for years with no ill effects whatsoever.

As for selenium toner, I replenish and reuse and never have to dump any (just what comes out in the wash).


Best,

Doremus

How do you replenish and how often?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Doremus Scudder
3-Apr-2017, 01:33
How do you replenish and how often? ...

Alberto,

I and others have written extensively on this. Search my name and "selenium" here and on APUG for lots of discussion.

Short version: when toning times get too long, add some toner concentrate to the working solution. It doesn't take much. Start small and work up till you get a feel for how much you need. If you add too much, you can always dilute. The toner will generate a black precipitate; filter your toner before and after each use. I keep two gallons; I've had them for over 10 years now.

Best,

Doremus

alberto_zh
3-Apr-2017, 01:35
thanks a lot! Much appreciated.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

SherW
22-Jun-2017, 20:45
I think that photo chemicals with a pH less than 2 or greater than 12.5 are not allowed disposed of down the drain. It is illegal. I heard that it is possible to neutralize the photo chemicals by using the appropriate alkaline or acidic component. Then the neutral solution can be drained through the sink. But I don't think silver can be treated to drain off through the sink since it is a metal. As neil poulsen said get help from the college authorities. Or contact a junk removal service providers who take such hazardous wastes (https://www.junk-works.ca/services/items-we-take/appliances). My dad used to do that. I think all the photographic wastes must be handled through EH&S.

Tom Monego
23-Jun-2017, 09:18
Not that sure about Potassium Ferrocyanide. In college I had a friend who as a project was doing full body nude blue prints of herself, basically going on the roof of her building laying out a fabric soaked in blue print emulsion, lying on it for 5 or 10 minutes, developing. After around 6 to 10 prints she started to get skin irritations and felt ill. Went to the ER and they told her she had low level cyanide poisoning. She stopped her project, had enough to get hung in a museum exhibition on alternative processes. There is also a reason Kodak removed it from color bleach between the E3 and E4 processes.

Tom