Can I just throw my chemicals down the sink?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Quinten, Jun 8, 2005.

  1. Quinten

    Quinten Member

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    Or maybe I should put it this way: Whould your exotic fish colection be happy swimmers if you throw some fixer in their pond?

    I am just asking this since I have been throwing quite a few litres of developer down the sink already, and in case it's really shit for the environments I should not be doing this 'to our mother', the chemical deposit would be a nice alternative.

    And how is this for fixers and wetting agents?

    cheers!
     
  2. Dave Parker

    Dave Parker Inactive

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    when I worked in the photo shop, we dumped the developer, but reclaimed the silver in the fixer to make it more inert, fixer is the big one that can be detrimental to the enviorment.

    Dave
     
  3. SuzanneR

    SuzanneR Moderator Staff Member

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    I would love an answer to this too!

    I tend to dump exhausted developer and stop bath (sometimes with a box of baking soda), but once a year my town has a 'toxic waste day' where I take fix and selenium toner. Wish they would do it twice a year!

    What do other APUGger's do?
     
  4. mark

    mark Member

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    I had the same experience when I worked in a darkroom. Reclaim the silver, dump the developer. I accidentally dumped some fix before it went through the reclaimer and had an EPA guy in my bosses office the next day giving me a lecture.

    My question is: What do we do with the fixer when there are no places that dispose of chemicals anywhere near me?
     
  5. titrisol

    titrisol Member

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    Put your fixer in 5 gallon cans, put steel wool in the can and shake every day or so.
    Most of the silver will be attached to the steel wool and you can dump the thiosulfates more safely.

    Selenium toner, when it is spent, put a couple of "very dark" prints into it, repeat, then you cn use it in your flower garden as fertilizaer. Flowers love selenium.


     
  6. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Member

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    I live in a rural area and all my darkroom waste goes into the sump which in turn is pumped into the ditch in front of my house. I have been in this location 8 years and can see absolutly no ill effects - the grass by the discharge looks just as healthy as anywhere else.

    Oh, did I mention the three-headed frogs? :D :wink:
     
  7. psvensson

    psvensson Member

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    It's weird - in parts of Europe, darkroom chemicals are treated with utmost paranoia by municipalities. In Sweden, for instance, I believe it's illegal to flush any photochemicals, and that includes stop bath, down the drain. In NYC, on the other hand, the city provides no guidance that I could find to the home darkroom user (but they might regulate photofininshers).
     
  8. medform-norm

    medform-norm Member

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    Quentin, sorry, but you're making it very hard for yourself, more than is needed. You live in Holland and you know just as well as I do that when in doubt about a chemical substance there are certain governmental phonenumbers you can call and where you can find out exactly what goes down the drain and what not.

    I sure hope this helps, coz' developer sure ain't helping no fish!
     
  9. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    If you are just using a homearkroom I doubt that you are creating anything approaching a substantial load on the sewer system. There are two basic concerns: The toxicity of the chemical and the volume. Thankfully the very great majority of B&W and color chemical are not going to be used in large enough volumes to cause problems. Neutralizing them to a medium PH is a worthwhile idea. It is also good to reduce metals such as chrome, Silver and selenium so that they are not concentrated.

    One of the best low tech method of eliminating silver from fixer is to use sheets of aluminum foil in a pail that the used fixer is put into. The silver will adhere to the foil. If you are not concerned about using a hardening fixer..for film for example or washing procedures that work well with a hardening agent..then if you test your fixer afteer this treatment you may find that it is still useful to you. Each time this cycle is repeated the hardening effects of aluminum will be intensified. Obviously, I am reffering to a strained solution that has the siver and crap filtered out.
     
  10. Huub S

    Huub S Member

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    In the Netherlands the local municipalities (Amsterdam also) have an excelent system for retrieving chemical waist - including photochemicals. It's free for private persons. In Amersfoort, where i live, they even profide free jerrycans to return the stuff.
    I collect developer, fixer and all the toners. The stop and the photoflo go down the drain. Especially the fixer and some of the toners (selenium!) are not very healthy for your fish - unless you like them swimming belly up!

    Huub
     
  11. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Exhausted fixer is a definite no-no for drains -- the dissolved silver is apparently pretty bad for the bacteria that to most of the work in both septic tanks and municipal sewage treatment facilities. However, there are a couple very viable solutions above for precipitating the dissolved silver before disposing of the remaining solution, which is then harmless (and can be used as fertilizer -- for which I wouldn't recommend selenium toner, since selenium can make harmless plants deadly toxic).

    Stop bath is no more harmful than salad dresssing (less so -- the vegetable oil in salad dressing is bad for sewage treatment). Wetting agent is a mild detergent, used in very low concentrations, and as such has far less effect that dish washing soap (either hand wash or machine variety) or laundry detergent.

    For developers, it depends. Sodium sulfite isn't something you want a lot of in surface waterways, and some of the phenols in developers can accumulate in surface waters and such, but conversely, most developing agents oxidize pretty rapidly in the environment into simple organic acids similar to tannin -- of which, in many parts of the North Temperate Zone, oak forests add enough to surface streams to make them look like iced tea, without harming stream-dwelling wildlife.

    One of the developers I use I could literally drink -- coffee, optional vitamin c, and washing soda (the soda wouldn't taste good, but in small quantities isn't significantly harmful). There is no solvent action, and it doesn't worry me a bit to put it down the drain.
     
  12. jp80874

    jp80874 Subscriber

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    Do you have a well? Have you thought about where its water comes from? Have you looked in the three mirrors over the sink? Does the name Love Canal ring a bell? I understand that several varieties of cancer take a long time to go far enough to be recognizable, but are rather irreversible once they have reached the recognizable stage.

    I am also told that many commercial photo labs will process fixer as a civic duty. That would probably take some phone calls. The local college where I take photo courses encourages students with home darkrooms to bring in the fixer to save the environment.

    John
     
  13. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    I asked one of my local labs (the one that has an actual camera/photo store attached) about taking my used fixer; they said the fellow who is supposed to take *their* used fixer has been unreliable and they can't be sure of getting rid of their own, much less mine (apparently they don't have silver recovery, or misunderstood my question -- I'll try asking again with the silver recovery angle on another visit). Meantime, the half gallon of fixer I finally exhausted a few weeks ago went into a plastic pail (former container for kitty litter, as it happens) with a few balls of steel wool. I should check it; the supernatant is probably ready to pour off as fertilizer, though the collected silver likely isn't enough to bother with, yet.
     
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  15. FilmIs4Ever

    FilmIs4Ever Restricted Access

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    I would recommend finding a local college or other school that offers photography courses and taking your fixer there. I wouldn't worry about developers or stop baths. They are totally harmless once dilluted, with maybe the exception of pyrogallol. Also, unless you're using Uranium, Selenium, or Mercury toners (and also once selenium is exhausted it is harmless too as the metal is all in the prints that you have toned with it), you'd be fine pouring it down the drain with the proper dilution of water. Unless your drain runs straight into the ocean, there will be no problem treating your run off at a local water refinery. Again, fixer is the only thing that is the problem, and only due to the silver that accumulates in it. I'd recommend taking it out yourself and making some jewelry with it :smile:

    Regards.
    ~Karl Borowski
     
  16. DimDim

    DimDim Member

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    Not only because it is stimulated by the Belgian authorities:
    I collect ALL my chemicals and bring them to the nearest recycling center once in a while. (It's free)
    I find it astonishing that you just dump all that stuff.
    You wouldn't drink it, would you...
     
  17. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Do fish drink water? Also, is anything twixt my sink drain
    and the municipal sewage plant expected to live?

    The quantity disposed of is where to make the call. Some
    where, years ago, I read a Kodak position statement on fixer
    down the drain. In summation, WE can toss down the sink due
    to the very extreme insolubility of silver sulfide and the always
    present abundant supply of sulfured compounds
    in sewage systems.

    Personally I don't worry about it. I use only unadulterated
    sodium or ammonium thiosulfate at very high dilutions; for the
    A. Thio, 1: 24 for Pan F+ and 1:49 for the RC Gr.2 paper used
    in proofing and experiments. Dan
     
  18. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    I do not have a car or any easy access to one so I have to bring the chemistry to the waste site by bus...not ideal with a 5 gallon container.

    I wonder if I could leave the lid off outside in the summer and let 90% of the water disappear into the air and bring the "sludge" to the waste site. That would be easier, lighter and better for my back.

    Morten
     
  19. Michel Hardy-Vallée

    Michel Hardy-Vallée Membership Council

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    Those of you who put the spent fixer over steel wool: what do you do when the silver sludge is nearing sterling levels? Do you keep a jewelry side business to make money out of it? I've seen a lot of suggestion on using that trick for fixer, but if you throw the silver down the toilet after, isn't it as polluting?
     
  20. thedarkroomstudios

    thedarkroomstudios Member

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    There are a number of purchasers out there who will buy the recovered silver. If you've bought a system, often that company will trade you the used silver bucket for a new one (if it's really laden you may even net enough profit for a cup of coffee too) if you're doing it with a home-made recovery system check the phone book, google or your local jewler for buyers of reclaimed silver.
    Just a start: http://www.ipc.org/3.0_Industry/3.4_EHS/RECYCLE1.htm
     
  21. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    last time my hauler took my 10-15 gallons of spent fixer, i got a check for 30$.

    talk to your dentist and see what he iis doing with his spent fixer from the x-ray machine. chances are there is a big drum the chemicals are dumped in ( and taken away ) or a trickle-tank. either way is better than dumping down the drain. besides, if you have metal waste pipes they will corrode, in addition to your adding contaminants to the environment.

    good luck!

    -john
     
  22. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I've heard of people doing this, but I've not done it myself. I'm not sure I'd do it in a completely open area, though, for a few reasons. First, you'd have to be careful to bring it in when it rains or rig some sort of enclosure to let the air circulate but keep the rain out, and either would be a hassle. Second, although this strikes me as unlikely, it's conceivable that an animal would try to drink from it. Third, it might get tipped over by an animal, the wind, etc. I'd expect an enclosed porch or even indoors would be better.
     
  23. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser

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    one summer when i got out of college i worked for a company as a sales rep visiting dental, vet and other sorts of doctors' offices that used x-ray machines. i was selling "ag-met evaporator units".
    these were little trash cans with a thick liner ( bag) and a heater at the base. one would dump the spent fixer into "it" and evaporate the liquid out of the fixer to get the sludge. it might take a while the way you want to do it, but you'll get the same results by the end of a hot summer :smile:
     
  24. lee

    lee Member

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    I used to work for a company that sold a system that did exactly that the idea is to evaporate the water out of the chems and make a solid waste out of it and I have been told that is easier to dispose of

    lee\c
     
  25. modafoto

    modafoto Subscriber

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    I guess I could boil the stuff :tongue:
     
  26. Fotohuis

    Fotohuis Restricted Access

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    That is in the end they are doing in Holland in ATV Rotterdam. It is put in a furnace with catalysers and it is gone.

    All chemical waste of non-profis is accepted in the KCA (small chemical disposal) for free in the Netherlands so there is no problem at all to get rid of it.

    As already told: Developer depends on the toxid class of it, Stop you can dump, Fix is always for the KCA unit, same for toners (selenium a.s.o.).

    Best regards,

    Robert