Analog & digital photography and our environment

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by film_guy, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. film_guy

    film_guy Member

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    After watching the documentary, "Manufactured Landscapes" by Edward Burtynsky and seeing all his work on the changing landscapes around us by industrialization, I do have a couple of thoughts in regards to analog versus digital photography in environmental-friendliness.

    Mind you, this isn't a analog is better than digital or vice versa post, but I've been hearing for close to a decade now on how environmentally-unfriendly the chemicals used by the film manufacturing and development industry. But has anyone thought about how environmentally-unfriendly digital photography is? The chips inside every digital camera aren't biodegradable, and since companies like Canon and Nikon releases practically a new DSLR or P&S every 6 to 12 months and digital photographers jump at the newest digital offering, there's going to be an almost unlimited supply of "e-waste" coming from the digital photography revolution. The same thing goes for things like ipods, cellular phones, laptops, big screen plasma/LCD TVs, etc.

    I've never been much of an environmental person, but after watching documentaries like War Photographer where James Nachtwey documents children in Indonesia picking through mountains of garbage, or watching the residents of a small town in China not being able to get safe drinking water due to the high levels of heavy metal from old computer parts in Manufactured Landscapes, I think I'm going to start doing my part for the environment. :sad:
     
  2. Donald Miller

    Donald Miller Member

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    I think that we humans are probably going to be the epitome of a species soiling their nest.
     
  3. arigram

    arigram Member

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    I use completly mechanical cameras to last me a long time and take special care with water waste, so I don't print FB.
    Furthermore, the enlarger wastes a lot less energy than my computer workstation.
    If you are careful with chemical disposal and water waste (which it seems our privileged brothers and sisters care little about), you are set.
    Now if you could get the enlarger running with solar power...
     
  4. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    I don't think it is fair to blame digital cameras/photography alone for the growng eWaste mountain. It is the entire silicon chip age, from washing machines to computers, which is the root cause. eWaste is becoming an enormous problem around the world, but it affects the poorest most, as they are most likely to end up breaking the waste down and being exposed to the toxins released.


    eWaste

    eWaste2

    eWaste Dump Of The World

    eWaste Dump Of The World 2
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 25, 2007
  5. firecracker

    firecracker Member

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    Just say no to nukes...
     
  6. doughowk

    doughowk Subscriber

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    The Burtynsky DVD is excellent. I think his message is that preservation alone will not reduce the human impact on the landscape. We need to think about our waste. To me, digital cameras are bad because they are not upgradeable in their present configuration. They are no better than laptops, cell phones and other throw away items. Intentionally poor design by short-sighted manufacturers; but the ultimate culprit is the consumer (including those amongst us who adopt digital photography).
     
  7. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Film Guy,

    Send your digital junk to Germany. Here we like to recycle anything.
    Not anything actually. Still no service for diapers. Those have to be sent to the Netherlands.

    (Strange enough here it is still allowed to drain photo-lab waste... Though you are encouraged not to do.)
     
  8. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    My local midwestern US county has two electronics recycling drop off days per year on Saturdays. They also have a 1 for 1 mercury for digital thermometer trade in program that's available 6 days a week. I can also easily recycle fluorescent lamps properly so that the mercury in them is recovered. Digital cameras can go into the electronics recycling drop off.

    Lee
     
  9. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    What happens to the ewaste you drop off? Is it recycled on site or shipped out?
     
  10. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Recycled. They sort it on site and have a couple of different drop off points at the collection site, depending on the materials. I usually have to stop at two points in the collection site.

    And I just checked to find out that they are now up to four dates per year for electronics recycling.

    Lee
     
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  11. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    That happens at our local recycling centre too, but once it is sorted it is shipped out. It is not processed on site.
     
  12. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    Film Guy
    The waste is huge and unacceptable. It is already at critical point, and not just from digital-plastic devices but cars also.
    I would not blame Nikon or Canon for it. It is consumers, computers, internet, and car industry to blame for. Why? They and its industries made low and middle clase to rise, to get into consumers level. They get just any junk and is enough for them to see it on internet or TV as possible fashion. The only way to stop it is to stop fashion (of low and middle class) as way of thinking and living. Look just what is happening in China: dissaster. Put 'em (consumers) where they belong and we will have our rivers where they were 200 years ago.
    And it is good part on photographers to get that work done. How? Self asignments ONLY. To educate consumers (they are easy mind changing) throuht photographs (not digital images for no one beleive in 'em, me too) what is truth behind all that junks. One after another and we are on the best way to direct their behaviour...

    www.Leica-R.com
     
  13. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    good part of consumers have no idea what is Mercury. They are not very smart guys. The second part usually are too lazy and buzy with TV to think in which box to drop "it"....
     
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  15. Daniel_OB

    Daniel_OB Member

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    good part of consumers have no idea what is Mercury. They are not very smart guys. The second part usually are too lazy and buzy with TV to think in which box to drop "it"....
     
  16. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    We have ewaste drop offs in Los Angeles. These drop offs are manned by knowledgeable personnel from UCLA who do the first sort for recycling.

    Steve
     
  17. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    While separate collection and sorting for the purpose of recycling is the critical first step - it is not itself "recycling".

    I think Andy's point is that the sorted goods are usually sent overseas (e.g. China) where they are broken down. This is where the real environmental damage is done.

    In a sense, you would be doing the planet less harm by just storing your obsolete electronics in the attic - thereby keeping it out of the waste stream altogether.
     
  18. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    George,

    You really need to turn off the "lawyer mode" sometimes when you are in APUG. The ewaste is sorted [presorted] at the ewaste station to facilitate the shipping to the proper recycling plants. I still think that what I wrote was clear enough for even the most casual observer to understand the underlying principle and process that the sorted waste would be recycled.

    Really, did you think that the ewaste would be sorted and left to sit there forever??? :confused: :confused: :confused:

    I suggest that you push back from your desk, grab one of your cameras, take a long walk, get some fresh air and shoot some film. It will do you good and prolong your life.

    Steve
     
  19. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    But where are those 'proper recycling plants'? In my vicinity there are a dozen drop off and sort depots. I am not aware of a single recycling plant.
     
  20. Sirius Glass

    Sirius Glass Subscriber

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    Good point. While I have not taken the time to check it out, the ewaste is sent to state approved recycling plants. One hopes that Govenator Arnold Schwartie is doing the right things. He has been pushing for tougher environmental regulation of CO2.

    Steve
     
  21. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Here we are in the midst of getting rid of tungsten light bulbs and introducing the spiral lamps which use mercury. We talk about the reduction in mercury in the atmostphere from power plants offsetting the mercury in the lamps.

    The problem is that dropping a spiral bulb in the home releases a concentrated form of a mercury salt. And that is similar to the problem with digital. Digital this and that contains mercury, arsenic, selenium and a host of other things that are concentrated in the device. These cannot be eliminated. They can go to a dump and be recycled (we hope), but see the article in last weeks Time magazine about the problem of waste dumps in China. Digital products use heavy metals both in the device itself and in the manufacturing process of the device.

    Analog photography uses organic chemicals along with silver. Silver is a very benign metal, used medically for years as an antisceptic. The organic chemicals can be easily disposed of. Any heavy metals present are used at such low concentrations they are difficult to detect and present no significant problems.

    Developers can be evaporated and burned safely with a good environmentally correct incinerator and color bleach and blix, when desilvered, can be used dilute as an approximate substitute for miracid on some plants. We worked long and hard to insure that photographic chemistry is as harmless as possible.

    And now, digital printers want to use pigment inks. Well, some pigments rely on the use of heavy metals. I think this is another potentially harmful item to be aware of.

    This same type of question keeps coming up over and over and over.

    PE
     
  22. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    At the moment 'recycling' is more a salve to people's conscience than it is an environmental boon.

    About half the UK's 'recycled waste' is shipped abroad. It is all part of the big Green con. We get taxed for recycling, charged for bin collections, told that we are helping to save the environment, and it's all lies.
     
  23. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    One way that I come by enough computer parts to recycle at the drop off is that I recycle before that is done. Through connections to people who have older computer equipment to dispose of because of regular upgrades, I get used computer hardware, assemble working boxes with decent performance, install linux that will do automatic upgrades and run much better and faster than MS on the older hardware, and give them to my kids, their friends, my friends, and installed them where I worked. This puts the stuff to use rather than into landfill or materials recycling. What I can't use in this way gets recycled, and a bunch of people get free computers in the bargain.

    If I came into any digital cameras, I'd likely give them away as well. :smile:

    Lee
     
  24. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Steve,

    Actually, my post to yours was not a challenge but an observation.

    I wish you good luck in finding out if the recycling plants are actually located in the Golden Bear State. If so, that is great news. However, even if some such plants are in CA, I would not be surprised to find that much of the pre-sorted eWaste actually goes to China. It's likely it serves as "ballast" on the various container ship return voyages after the finished goods they carried here have arrived at the Port of Long Beach.

    BTW: The reason I would expect this is that already China is the largest importer of recyclable cardboard and paper products. They need it to make new boxes to send us new finished goods. :wink:
     
  25. haris

    haris Guest

    Well, I went to pharmacy stores, medical institutions, municipality offices and places like that with question where I can drop my photo chemistry waste. Answer was nowhere. So, I asked in clinics can I drop that waste with them and they to deal with it when they deal with biological and other waste they have, that is to process it into theire bilogical waste processing infrastucture. They told me I can't.

    So, my options are:

    1. Drop my photo chemistry waste through toilet,

    2. Collect waste year after year and waiting for waste processing plants to start working here,

    3. Export my waste to other countries to process it, and

    4. Get hands up of photography.

    So, answer is obvious, and yes, I sleep well...
     
  26. Gary Holliday

    Gary Holliday Member

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    A silmilar story in Northern Ireland found that the council were paying a processing plant to sort and recycle, when in fact they were sending lorry loads up to a nearby mountain and beauty spot to be buried.

    I'm still trying to figure out why taxation helps the planet???