View Full Version : Darkroom waste disposal?

Blair Ware
19-Aug-2009, 11:24
I recently met a photographer who claimed that standard darkroom waste chemicals, when mixed together, make great fertilizer for the lawn. How close is he to the truth, and is this an environmentally friendly thing to do, especially when silver is a "heavy" metal?

I live in an urban setting and am wondering how to safely dispose of my darkroom waste (including some sort of practical silver recovery). Any suggestions will be appreciated.



19-Aug-2009, 12:34
I wouldn't put it on my lawn but most darkroom chems are not nearly as bad as many other things we flush down the drain such as bleach and detergents.

For silver recovery I went to Wal-Mart and for a few bucks got a gallon "Sun-Tea" jar. It is made out of glass and has a plastic spout towards the bottom. I then filled it with cheap steel wool. Then I put in my used fixer and wait for a few days to a week. The silver ions will swap out with the iron in the steel wool and will collect at the bottom of the jar as a black sludge. This sludge will have a lot of silver in it, but it will no longer be silver ions and will be pretty harmless. As it will be in metallic form.

Then I sit the whole thing on the side of my sink and open up the spout. I use a coffee filter to filter out any grit as I don't want it gunking up my pipes.

William McEwen
19-Aug-2009, 12:56
I know your question wasn't about chemicals per se...

A photographer I know used to have the print washer drain tube connected to a long garden hose that went from the darkroom to the backyard lawn. She said it helped water and didn't kill anything.

19-Aug-2009, 14:51
is there a lab near you ?
it more than likely has a recovery system firmly in place
since their effluence levels are regulated with limits of ppm strictly enforced
if you approach them, more than likely they will allow you to just drop off some of your waste in a 5 gallon bucket.

if you are really interested in learning what is allowed and not allowed
where you live, you can always call your local authorities. everyplace has their own
regulations. where i live discharge limits are LOW and strictly enforced ...
where you are it may be different ...

good luck!


William McEwen
19-Aug-2009, 14:59
if you are really interested in learning what is allowed and not allowed
where you live, you can always call your local authorities.

Call from a pay phone and don't give them your name. :)

Blair Ware
20-Aug-2009, 11:38
Thank you all for your advice. I'll be hanging on to my fixer in the short term and looking for a long term solution. My grass will be safe.

20-Aug-2009, 17:25
Your local college may have a silver recovery unit in use.

20-Aug-2009, 17:38
One option is to use environmentally friendly chemicals. Silvergrain has been formulated for biodegradability.

20-Aug-2009, 20:23
I second Toyon. If your stop bath turns purple some people dump it down the drain, An environmentally School in Boston does this. The issue is silver recovery in the fixer.

Silver Magnet is still available as some stores


Kodak has a PDF that may shed some light i dont know if these are still available

25-Aug-2009, 21:51
The local municipal recycling center here takes photo chemicals. Perhaps near you as well.

25-Aug-2009, 23:57
Yes, there are toxic waste collection centers in almost every municipality. I bring it all there...spent developer, fixer, dichromate water from gum prints, etc. It's no bother at all to go there a few times a year.

Do not dump any photo chemicals on your lawn or on the ground.

Robert Hughes
26-Aug-2009, 08:27
I re-use chemicals until they're just about exhausted, then I dump it all down the sink, mixed with plenty of tap water. But now that I have some steel wool, I'm going to start running used fixer thru it to cut down on silver sludge pollution.