View Full Version : Green Darkroom?

Don Wallace
5-Dec-2005, 06:42
Does anyone have any experience with making your darkroom a little more eco-friendly? I do traditional black and white developing and printing, and plan to get into some alternative processes as well. No colour. Any suggestions as to where I might look for information?

5-Dec-2005, 08:08
What's not eco-friendly about your darkroom. I took some darkroom chemicals outside and poured them on a small area of plantlife. No effect at all. For alternative processes go to unblinkingeye.com or alternativephotography.com Lots of articles and information.

5-Dec-2005, 10:19
Ah, the Green thing again. Leonard's link will answer your question.

I will try to add NEW information here on staying healthy in the wet room.

TIP #1 Never use the same decantur for Rodinal as you do for Guinness.

5-Dec-2005, 10:24
likewise, avoid scotch in one hand, ansco 130 in the other.

i scared myself once.

please don't pour photo chemicals into the soil. espcecially not used fixer. no one should have to tell anyone this.

Don Wallace
5-Dec-2005, 11:23
Let me refine the question a little. Does anyone have any PERSONAL experience with techniques or equipment that may reduce the toxic level of spent chemicals (filtration? whatever). Is it even necessary? Right now, all I can think of is putting all used chemistry in a drum and taking it to a toxic waste disposal site every few weeks.

Leonard, thanks for the link. I will check into it. As for what is not eco-friendly about my darkroom: I am assuming, perhaps incorrectly, that it is not a good idea to dump things like fixer or selenium toner down the drain. But I don't really know. Hence my question.

Tom Westbrook
5-Dec-2005, 11:54
If you are on a municipal water system, a call to them would probably be helpful. They can tell you what's safe/legal to flush and what's not.

Bruce Watson
5-Dec-2005, 12:08
Actually, Kodak can tell you more than most anyone. They used to have a paper publication that they would send you on request that explained the ramifications of the various chemical and their impact on the environment, sewage systems, and septic systems.

My take is that over time, we've left more toxic chemistry behind for more benign chemistry. IIRC, some of the old processes used development by mercury vapor, for example. Highly toxic.

The newest developer from a major company is XTOL, Kodak's last. It is amoung the least toxic of developers, and the least damaging to the environment.

The worst thing for the environment in the modern darkroom is probably used fixer. The silver metal is toxic and biodegrades very slowly if at all. If you'll run the used fixer through a silver reclimation process, you remove most of the environmental impact however.

Selenium from selenium toners is another product that's bad for both you and the environment.

I would call the chemical's manufacturer and ask. I'd also call your local city's sanitation and hazardous materials people and ask them.

5-Dec-2005, 12:12
all I can think of is putting all used chemistry in a drum and taking it to a toxic waste disposal site every few weeks.

If you were to do that here, you would get away with it once, then be billed heavily for every additional time you tried that. TWD folks handle toxic materials, not hypocondriac whimsies.

Steve Feldman
5-Dec-2005, 12:19

Many (many) years ago, when I built my permanent darkroom, I had a small problem with planning sink drainage. On the advice of a friend, I plumbed the drains into a dry well (hole in the ground) in the back yard. A bit later I had occasion to talk with a Kodak technical rep and asked him if I was polluting the neighborhood with my developer, stop and fix going into the soil. His advice was: "Most developers have similar chemical compositions as plant food. Developer, stop bath and fix are so extremely diluted by the time it goes down the drain that the effect on the environment is not adversely affected. Although Kodak does not recommend feeding the grass with D-76." He was also certain that Ortho Weed-N-Feed would not develop Tri-X.

My grass loves it. The greenest part of my lawn. But, personally, I wouldn't eat tomatoes grown in that area.

7-Dec-2005, 15:20
One of the best, low tech solutions is to recover the silver from your fixer with steel wool. I first learned about this from the chemical safety coordinator at my college (which is in colorado springs, a town that has had its municipal sewage treatment plants shut down a number of times becuase of photographic silver in the wastewater).

I took his word for it, but since then have seen a lot of evidence on the web that this works. Just put your waste fixer in a bucket with a big wad of the finest gauge steel wool you can find. In a few days, Ion exchange will replace the silver in the thiosulfate with iron, and the silver will precipitate out in a black sludge at the bottom. Supposedly the effectiveness is over 99%.

After five years of so of doing this, I ended up with a pretty unimpressively sized lump of sludge at the bottom of a jar. Unfortunately, even if you produced a lot, the silver is impure, and with the low price of it these days, a refinery would really be doing you a favor by taking it off your hands. But silver thiosulfate is bad for environment, even if you have good municipal waste treatment, so keeping 99% of it from going down the drain is a very good thing. Plus, it's easy.

As far as other chemicals, the best solution depends on if you have a septic system or municipal sewage treatment. I'd be very careful if you have the former; find out what to do from someone who knows more than me.

If the latter, think of metal-laden chemicals as a special category (chromium intensifiers, anything with silver nitrate, lead acetate, gold chloride, etc. etc.). Avoid sending these down the drain at any cost.

Everything else can be dealt with by dilution and by neutralizing strong acids and bases. In general, for the sake of your pipes, and posibly also for the sewage plant, it's nice to neutralize (or at least weaken) acids and bases. Things like exhausted developer and stop can be mixed togehter. Stronger things, be careful. Learn how to do it so nothing blows up in your face. On top of that, dilute everything with plenty of water and dump it down.

7-Dec-2005, 18:32
paulr Everything else can be dealt with by dilution and by neutralizing strong acids and bases.

Just curious, does anyone know the extent of the natural human waste and garbage-disposal stuff put into your city systems?

I can see it now, "Oh my God! Pee is acidic! Don't do it!" I could only hope all of NYC blows up holding it.


8-Dec-2005, 19:10
Don, this doesn't answer your question but is a related tid bit of interest.

Swedish Capital Sees Less Silver Pollution Thanks to Digital Photos

November 25, 2005 By Associated Press
STOCKHOLM, Sweden The growing use of digital photography has helped clean the water in the Swedish capital by reducing emissions of silver into the sewage systems from photo labs, experts said Thursday.

Tests have shown that silver levels have dropped by more than half in five years in the waters of the Stockholm archipelago.

"I am convinced that this is primarily thanks to the digital technology. There is less developing of conventional silver-halide film," said Ragnar Lagerkvist of the Stockholm Water authority.

He said most of the silver emissions used to come from photo labs, as well as X-ray plates from dentists and hospitals.

Helena Parkman of the Swedish Environmental Board said silver ions can be more toxic to water organisms than mercury. Silver in its metallic form is far less toxic.

At least 90 percent of all cameras sold in Sweden today are digital, camera shop owner Roland Persheden said.

Source: Associated Press