Bathroom film development and safe disposal of chemistry

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by frugal, Jul 11, 2006.

  1. frugal

    frugal Subscriber

    Messages:
    150
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Halifax, NS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Hello,

    I'm starting to think about doing B&W film development in my apartment's bathroom. It's a decent size space with no windows so blocking off the light shouldn't be much of a problem, ventilation could be a little problematic as the exhaust fan is on the same switch as the lights so I might have to wear a respirator (good idea anyway) and/or remove the light bulbs so I can run the fan.

    My big concern though is disposing chemistry, I don't want to just pour them down the drain.

    I'm interested in working with plus-x and tri-x in diafine and d-76 and efke/adox 25 in neofin blue if I can get my hands on some. My understanding is that diafine has a really long shelf life and can be reused so that one shouldn't be a problem. For all of these combinations I can probably get away with a water stop bath. So that leaves disposing of used d-76 and neofin blue as well as exhausted fix, hypo-clear and photo flow. Any recommendations for economical ways to handle these?
     
  2. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

    Messages:
    1,887
    Joined:
    Mar 10, 2005
    Location:
    Central Flor
    Shooter:
    4x5 Format
    Diafine lasts for a very, very long time. Mine is years old and I don't know how many rolls have been through it and it still does the job well. I am fortunate enough to have a darkroom where I work where I can dump chemicals in the recycling containers, but for many people, that is not an option. You can easily store used chemicals in old milk containers, or in 1 gallon Gatorade containers like I do, and then take them to the local waste processing facility and drop them off, but there may be a fee. I believe that where I live you can drop off up to a certain volume without charge, but over that volume they charge a minimal amount.

    There have been many, many discussions on dumping down the drain, and everyone seems to have an opinion on it so I will not provide mine here. You should be able to find some of those threads on this site by searching a bit if you are interested.

    Personally, I minimise the waste by using TF-4 which requires no HCA or acid stop bath, and then recycle the other stuff. In your case, it costs nothing to ask to phone up your waste disposal company and ask, and if they charge, you could check the local film processor to see how they deal with chemicals. chances are they know of a company that either recycles or disposes of used photo chemicals.

    - Randy
     
  3. firecracker

    firecracker Member

    Messages:
    1,954
    Joined:
    Jan 22, 2005
    Location:
    Japan
    Shooter:
    35mm
  4. david b

    david b Member

    Messages:
    4,031
    Joined:
    Oct 20, 2003
    Location:
    None of your
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Hey frugal.

    You don't mention what size film you are processing. If you are doing 35mm or 120, are you using a daylight tank? If so, you can turn on your lights/fan once the film is rolled and the lid is on.

    As for dumping the chemicals, I dump everything but the fix, which I bring to the local university, where the collect and recycle it for free. I don't use a stop bath so the only thing I am dumping is the developer.

    And honestly, I don't think a respirator is really needed.
     
  5. Gerald Koch

    Gerald Koch Member

    Messages:
    1,670
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2004
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Acccording to Kodak, in the amounts used by the hobbiest photographer there is no harm caused by the disposal of photographic solutions into a city sewer system or even a home septic system.

    If you should ever wish to use a stopbath then a citric acid stop is odorless. A boric acid stopbath is also odorless.
     
  6. frugal

    frugal Subscriber

    Messages:
    150
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Halifax, NS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Yes, the joys of posting at work means that I had a complete brain fart that it will be daylight tanks for that. That'll be the main work, definitely to start anyway. I do plan to shoot 4x5 though so I will probably soup that too in which case I will need the total darkness.

    As for the other replies, thank you all. I'll look into the waste disposal options. I don't really want to start a debate on how bad dumping chemistry down the drain is, I'm just going with the assumption that it's probably not good so if I can avoid it I will. There's enough problems as it is with what ends up in Halifax harbour so I'd prefer not contributing to it further. The local art college does silver recovery with their used fix so I might be able to dump it there or at least get some info on who would deal with it.
     
  7. Sparky

    Sparky Member

    Messages:
    2,099
    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2005
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    We're talking about black and white chemistry here. Basically we're talking about soda water. I wouldn't be too concerned - except where we're discussing, say, pyro or toners that contain toxic metals. Urine is more toxic than fixer or most developer, which will break down into it's constituents in no time anyway. If you're really concerned, what I'd do is place your questionable effluent into clear glass jars and leave them out in the sun as much as possible - for, say, a month or so - after which point, any harmful substances (EXCEPT heavy metals, of course!) should have broken down.
     
  8. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    Here's my understanding of the dangers/problems of photochemistry:

    • Developers -- Most developers are, if not completely benign, at least nowhere near as toxic as many household products. In fact, most of the stuff in developers is closely related to what you'll find in household cleaning products, hair dyes, and Tylenol. This does vary from one developer to another, though. My understanding is that the most environmentally benign developers are those based on phenidone and ascorbic acid ("PC," after the ingredients), such as XTOL. If you're concerned about this, use a PC developer -- which at the moment means XTOL or a home-brew developer. D-76 is a metol/hydroquinone (MQ) developer, which is a little nastier, but still not all that awful. I don't know about Diafine, offhand.
    • Stop bath -- This is usually diluted acetic acid, which is also the main ingredient in vinegar. In fact, you can use vinegar as a stop bath, but you need to dilute it to get it to the right acidity. Many photographic stop baths add an indicator dye, but AFAIK that's also pretty harmless.
    • Fixer -- My understanding is that fresh fixer is pretty benign stuff; the problem with it is that it picks up silver compounds from the film, and that's a much bigger concern. Most chemical-disposal threads focus on the fixer because of this fact.
    • Hypo clear -- Most hypo clear products are mainly sodium sulfite, which is fairly benign.
    • Wetting agent -- These are similar to detergents, and in fact some people use dish-washing detergents (the sort for hand washing, not for machine washing) as wetting agents, although I've also read from knowledgeable people that dedicated wetting agents are superior in various ways. Still, my impression is that wetting agents are pretty benign.

    Aside from the fixer, the above description focuses on fresh chemicals. These will inevitably pick up some stuff from the film and from the preceding processing steps, but I've never heard that this is an important consideration, with the exception of the fixer. (Other processes or additional steps, such as print toning, have their own issues, of course.)

    In other words, the main thing about which you should be concerned is the fixer. For that, to be safe you should call your local water department and ask for advice. You could also try collecting it and taking it to a photo lab; most photofinishers operate silver reclamation machinery and many will be happy to pour your used fixer in with theirs, since they'll get a little money from it. (Not much, though -- after all, the value of silver in film can't exceed the value of the film, and is probably much less.)

    As to using a respirator, that's almost certainly overkill, at least for the sorts of products you've mentioned. If you're very prone to allergies, you might find the fumes irritating enough to justify using a respirator, but for just developing film, your bathroom's fan should be more than enough. Remember that the chemicals are mostly contained in their bottles or in the developing tank. Most people don't even use respirators when working with open trays for developing prints.
     
  9. David A. Goldfarb

    David A. Goldfarb Moderator Staff Member Moderator

    Messages:
    17,981
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Honolulu, Ha
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    Ventilation in my dark/bathroom is part of our building's ventilation system, so it's "on" all the time, but I've got that light switch problem, since the light switch also controls the electrical outlet that I use for the timer and enlarger or contact printing lamp. If you've got incandescent lights in the darkroom, you can get a pull switch adapter from any hardware store that screws in between the socket and the bulb and also has electrical outlets, so you can leave the main light switch on and turn lights off. If you can find my posts in the "Darkroom Portraits" thread, you can probably see the pull switch adapters in place.
     
  10. frugal

    frugal Subscriber

    Messages:
    150
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Halifax, NS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks for the further info. I was mainly thinking fix and I should be able to dump that at a lab or the art college for silver recovery. Good to know that dev isn't too nasty but I think I'll look into it for my specific area just to be safe. With Diafine lasting so long and being reusable that's obviously not a problem.

    As for the respirator, I have asthma and I find that after long darkroom sessions I tend to have a sore throat so I think it's a wise move for me.
     
  11. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

    Messages:
    1,845
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Frugal, I'm mildly asthmatic also. I have no problems with a five hour printing session in my completely unventilated bathroom/darkroom, using acid stop bath and acid fixer (the latter of which, in theory, emits sulfur dioxide). The one time (for alt process) that I used an ammonia-alkalized fixer, I had irritation in my nose and throat, but the acetic acid vapors and anything else coming off fixer, Dektol, HC-110, and Parodinal seem to have no significant effect. Even for 4x5 in trays, I can turn on the lights and open the door once the film is in the fixer; it's only printing that requires a prolonged period with the darkroom closed up.

    I find the heat much more bothersome than the fumes -- in the summer, I'm blocking off the air conditioning when I close up the darkroom, and when its 95 degrees outside, with the cold light heater and safelight running continuously (plus my body generating as much heat as a 150 W tungsten bulb), it rapidly gets uncomfortable -- I find myself having to open the door every hour or two to change the air, not for chemical reasons, but just to cool off.

    Oh, and all my chemicals go happily down the drain -- I one-shot my fixer, specifically to avoid high concentration of silver (BTW, the thiosulfate itself is about the same strength as in onion juice -- if you can put onions down a disposer, you can dump fixer, unless the silver is the concern). The only chemical I won't treat that way is my dichromate reversal bleach; that will go to the local haz-waste collection when exhausted.
     
  12. frugal

    frugal Subscriber

    Messages:
    150
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Halifax, NS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Thanks Donald,

    I definitely get nasal and throat irritation from even relatively short developing sessions at the art college using D-76 or XTOL, acid stop bath, and sodium thiosulfite fix. That's in a fairly confined area (smaller than my bathroom) but they have an air vent directly over the sink (at sink height, not head height so that's not the problem) so ventilation should be pretty good and I find it still bothers me. While using a respirator I'm fine. I should have one for mixing chemistry any way (my dev is all powder) so I'll give it a try and see if it irritates me or not.
     
  13. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

    Messages:
    2,725
    Joined:
    May 18, 2005
    Location:
    Woonsocket,
    Shooter:
    35mm
    You might also look into alternatives to the chemistry you use. There are plenty of "odorless" stop baths (or you can just use plain water) and fixers on the market. Personally, I've found that some fixers give me a mild sore throat feeling after a long darkroom printing session, but I've not yet used enough, or tested in a systematic enough manner, to know precisely what the cause is. I know that Freestyle's Arista Premium Powdered fixer and the mix-it-yourself TF3 fixer are better in this respect for me, although TF3 has an overwhelming ammonia odor that makes its use in trays unpleasant. This odor is tolerable for use in tanks for developing film, though. These might or might not be good products for you to try; your asthma might make you sensitive to different things than I find irritating.
     
  14. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

    Messages:
    2,130
    Joined:
    Jul 8, 2005
    Location:
    USA
    Shooter:
    Large Format
    The only time dumping B&W chemicals (excluding silver-laden fix) is even a theoretical problem is on septic systems. I presume your apartment is hooked up to a sewer and that is hooked up to a treatment plant. That is the best possible way to dispose of it, so dump away.

    Wayne
     
  15. dancqu

    dancqu Member

    Messages:
    3,676
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Willamette V
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    Likely safe to say your fix is an acid fix and that acid
    fix is the main reason for the acid stop. Developer as
    you are probably aware is alkaline.

    I work in a totaly fumeless odorless darkroom. My
    chemistry is neutral to alkaline. Dan
     
  16. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

    Messages:
    1,845
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2005
    Location:
    North Caroli
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    The most likely source of nose and throat irritation with tradition chemicals (acid stop bath, acid fixer) is sulfur dioxide evolved from the sodium sulfite in the fixer and commercial stop bath. Use citric acid stop bath, mixed fresh for each session, and alkaline fixer (I put 1 tsp of washing soda in a liter of fixer for alkaline fixer, it needs no sulfite, though the same stuff without alkali starts precipitating sulfur after only 2-3 prints if made without sulfite). As a bonus, alkaline fixers will wash out of emulsion more rapidly, though for fiber prints you really do want to use a rapid fixer to allow rapid archival washing (washing the paper takes the same time regardless of pH, so the less it picks up, the better). Neutral fixer (like C-41 fixer) is the key here -- no sulfur dioxide, no ammonia odor.
     
  17. frugal

    frugal Subscriber

    Messages:
    150
    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Location:
    Halifax, NS,
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Um, you're right about being hooked up to sewer but the condition of the harbour would indicate you're making a bit of an assumption about treatment. Treatment is getting better but I wouldn't want to go swimming in the harbour anytime soon. Heard a story about someone at the art college (which is a few blocks from the waterfront) pouring food colouring down the toilet and timing how long it took to show up in the harbour, think it was around 15 mins, could just be an urban legend but there's definitely a whole lot going still going into the harbour that shouldn't be.
     
  18. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

    Messages:
    20,099
    Joined:
    Jun 21, 2003
    Location:
    local
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    SNIP


    right on david!
    my waste hauler arrives in a week or 2 ---
    30 gallons all to be taken away.
     
  19. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Location:
    Wilson, NC
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I'm sorry, that's not quite true. While Kodak does say that in general, most of those solutions are 'compatible with' local sewage treatment plants and therefore can be dumped, they do counsel that local laws differ, and they do NOT say you can put the stuff in a septic tank.

    And:

    Both are available here:

    http://www.kodak.com/eknec/PageQuerier.jhtml?pq-path=4247&pq-locale=en_US

    In addition, many US municipalities and water districts have their own laws pertaining to how photographic chemical waste, even in consumer quantities, must be legally disposed of.

    I am not saying that you'll destroy the world if you just dump it all down the drain - it probably is harmless enough in the grand scheme of things. But I am suggesting that Google is your friend; if you Google for terms like "photographic chemicals" and "waste disposal" and your county / state, you may find just what you're looking for. In other cases and in countries other than the US, you may have to call your local government or whomever handles waste disposal in your area and ask them.
     
  20. Wigwam Jones

    Wigwam Jones Member

    Messages:
    303
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2004
    Location:
    Wilson, NC
    Shooter:
    35mm
    I think there is a difference between a theoretical chemical problem and a theoretical legal problem. In many (but not all) places it is just not legal to 'dump away'. It may be that no one ever gets caught for so doing, but I'd still not advise someone to just blithely ignore the law.
     
  21. Ryuji

    Ryuji Member

    Messages:
    1,416
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2005
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    Shooter:
    Multi Format
    Regulations vary. Check MSDS to see what's in your chemicals and decide what to do.

    Most common ingredients that are in most regulatory lists are: hydroquinone, borax, boric acid, metaboric acid, metaborate, etc. Even if not regulated, it is generally a good idea to avoid dumping chemicals that contain these agents.

    Silver in exhausted fixer makes sludge once it enters the sewer. Apparently some think this is a burden to the treatment plant. It is also a waste of silver, which is limited resource.

    Selenium toners are better to bring to hazardous waste collection.

    Dichromate, ferricyanide, cadmium compounds etc. are more problematic. It's best to minimize the quantity used, and also store the exhausted stock for proper disposal. (Label each solution with the list of ingredients from MSDS! It's not always good to assume that the disposal plant will figure out what's in it. Also, this info will be very useful in case of accidents during storage/transportation/etc.)

    Cadmium and mercury compounds are more serious. Be very careful with them. Mercury is very reactive with many kinds of organic matters and also bacteria to make more toxic compounds than inorganic mercury salts. Proper management of mercury compounds is rather cumbersome even in real scientific labs. It is simply best to stay away from these agents.
     
  22. dancqu

    dancqu Member

    Messages:
    3,676
    Joined:
    Sep 7, 2002
    Location:
    Willamette V
    Shooter:
    Medium Format
    If dilution is the solution I've got the
    problem licked. I use all chemistry, film
    or print, very dilute and one-shot. Dan