dig vs. analog on the environment

Discussion in 'Ethics and Philosophy' started by scottmillar75, Jun 16, 2005.

  1. scottmillar75

    scottmillar75 Member

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    I'm wondering what you guys and girls think about this issue, namely, is analog photography - with all it's chemicals and waste and taps running all day - more harmful to the environment than digital? I think it's possible that an equal amount of pollution comes out of the production of the chips and sensors and whatever else they put in digital cameras, but it's unlikely. Anybody out there know more about this? Any thoughts?

    Scott
     
  2. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I know that when I have to get rid of computer, printer, scanner etc. after it has outlived it's useful life of a couple of years, I am required to take them to a hazardous waste facilty for disposal. In 35 years, I've never had to throw out a camera or enlarger so I don't know what the requirements are there.
     
  3. thedarkroomstudios

    thedarkroomstudios Member

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    Scary topic to get involved with. Most consumables from both worlds are recyclable. (ink cartridges vs film cassettes) Waste % for traditional printing is certainly higher than digital, perhaps an equal tradeoff to the extra printers being thrown away. Hmmm, all those monitors on non-stop burning electricity may be a fair trade to the water waste in film. Of course there is the light pollution those monitors make.... I'll save this space for someone more qualified.
     
  4. Loose Gravel

    Loose Gravel Member

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    That's a tough analysis to do. Flotsam makes a good point, you need to take into account the longevity of a product. I know this is too simplistic, but I figure the more money I spend, the more pollution I make. Spend a dollar, that's a buck's worth of pollution, be it digital or analog pollution. Of course, YMMV.
     
  5. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    Most of the chemicals when exhausted and combined turn into a nice salt which is a marvelous fetilizer. Use steel wool to pull out the waste silver and you will have the best lawn in the neighborhood. People who do not understand chemistry, are the ones who are the worst at worrying about the hazards. Common sense, and good practices, and you have less problems that as Neal has stated, computers will give you. The anyline dyes used in the inks are far worse then B&W chemistry. In fact most the chemicals can be found in your local supermarket if you are really hard up for supplies. Please do not drink your chemicals though. Nothing is going to develop besides a good case of the runs.
     
  6. thedarkroomstudios

    thedarkroomstudios Member

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    Lol, Aggie... I hear Perma Wash is much better than Metamucil :tongue:
     
  7. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    When i think about the built in obsolescence of computers, monitors, digital cameras, printers etc, I shudder at the profligate waste of resources, the landfills containing toxic materials, the pollution caused by manufacturing that much plastic.

    And it just gets worse and worse. Right now it is cheaper for me to buy a new printer everytime my ink cartridges run out with rebates and coupons from big box stores like Comp USA and Best Buy then it is to replace the ink sets.

    You want to find an industry the produces toxic waste? Do a google search on toxicity of ink manufacturing.

    Of course when you turn in your computer as part of that hazardous materials regulation, be aware that companies with those contracts ship the components as far away as India where kids melt down the contents over open flames to seperate out the valuable metals. So at least that part of the pollution kills people in another country.

    Does traditional photography pollute? Sure does. But as Aggie pointed out there are simple steps one can take to limit the impact. And most photo chemicals are pretty benign after being exhausted.

    On balance I would say that digital has a far greater negative impact to the environment.
     
  8. blackmelas

    blackmelas Subscriber

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    How do you do this? Simply throw a bit into the exhausted fixer? or is there other equipment involved?
    Thanks James
     
  9. Troy Hamon

    Troy Hamon Member

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    Digital is less environmentally friendly than B&W

    First...Kodak makes a chemical recovery cartridge that is a five gallon bucket with some tube fittings, and the bucket is totally filled with steel wool. I got one from B&H, and plan to get another and hook them up in serial in my darkroom after it is finally constructed (hopefully this fall...).

    I think the answer to the original question relates strongly to whether you are doing toning. In my opinion, classic wet darkroom work without toning of the final print clearly has less negative impact on the environment than digital processes. The only way I can see this being incorrect is if the number of images that you shoot is huge and you make relatively few prints. A prolific shooter who does little printing may save resources by using a card that is reusable in place of film. But if that shooter is archiving and storing all the images digitally, then the benefit goes away. And clearly, I'm assuming that the darkroom user is recovering their silver rather than dumping it. The reality is that other than the silver, there are no real hazards in the standard developing chemicals. As has been noted, they make great fertilizer.

    On the other hand, toners are often very toxic heavy metals. Disposal of many toners is a serious concern. This is, in part, why I don't tone any of my photographs. The other reason is that I don't particularly value the supposed increase in longevity, as I am more interested in knowing that the image is being enjoyed now than whether there is some off chance that 500 years from now (or 50 for that matter) somebody will wonder what the image looked like before it faded to oblivion. Frankly, that's not why I do art. And I've never had any photos that faded enough to be noticed by me (and I think I'm relatively picky) so far. I do think that it is interesting how much people obsess over the potential archival differences among the various toning and paper options, none of which is invalid mind you, just perhaps a bit more persnickety than necessary. But the people on the digital side are just making inkjet prints with no idea of permanence and they are showing up in museums too. So perhaps the purpose of toning for 'archival' reasons is not so important to people in the museum/gallery end of things anymore. If it is because of some inherent quality in the tones that the artist values, so be it.

    And as has already been said...if you count the disposable nature of the hardware and the impact of that, wet darkroom work wins hands down.

    My considerably more than 2 cents.
     
  10. Andy K

    Andy K Member

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    This made me think Aggie. As I sometimes have my young nephew about the place I have all my chemicals labelled as 'Poison'. However, I have no idea just how 'poisonous' my chemicals (Rodinal, Ilfotec DD-X, stop bath, fixer) actually are. Could anyone enlighten me?
    As for the environmental thing, I would think digital, with all it's batteries, chips, electricity from various power stations, computers, monitors, CD roms, ink cartridges et al is probably a little more damaging to the environment than traditional methods. Especially as these days one is rapidly outgrowing the other.
     
  11. Joe Lipka

    Joe Lipka Member

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    IMHO there is less threat from all analog chemical processes than everything digital because in terms of overall volume of waste generated, analog products generate muich less waste because analog users are a far smaller group than digital photographers.
     
  12. Phong

    Phong Member

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    This sounds awfully callous to me, perhaps more so than you meant.
    And not because I also practice digital photography.

    - Phong
     
  13. Jim Chinn

    Jim Chinn Member

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    I don't remember the source but I first became aware of this through an article about a photographer. it may have been in the UK version Black and White magazine.

    The simple truth of the matter is that countries such as India, Bangledesh, Malaysia, have next to zero envrironmental regulations or protections for workers or child labor laws. The cold calculations of profit leads recovery companies to send monitors and computers there where labor costs pennies compared to the US or EU.

    There have been effrots in the US congress to curtail such practices by US companies or there subs. I don't know if any such legislation has been passed. It could be that the fee mentioned for California is a result of such legislation on a state level.
     
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  15. Claire Senft

    Claire Senft Member

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    I have a couple of thoughts on this matter. I believe a number of users are having their photo finishing done by labs unto RA4 paper whixh saves only the fim processing. I believe that all of these empty inkjet cartridges going to the landfill will become an enviromental headache. In short I believe that digital offers no gain.
     
  16. thedarkroomstudios

    thedarkroomstudios Member

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    Andy... look up your chems MSDS sheets (most are online at mfr websites). The ones you have listed generally have the following instructions if a working solution is swallowed: Do not induce vomiting. Drink lots of water. Call your physician.

    Note - working solution... I'd hate to see how 2% Glacial would rip apart the lining of your esophogus (better get Nexium!)

    P.S. - Sprint Chemistry is being used by a lot of schools now, one reason is the fact it is basically odourless and has a very low enviro. impact.
     
  17. blansky

    blansky Subscriber

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    In my opinion, as long as people had a place to "dump" things, that's what they did. As has been mentioned to some Mexico and India etc are still that place.

    But as the world get smaller and we realize the damage that we are doing to ourselves and our children we have come up with ingenious ways to recycle.

    I believe in a few years that we will be recycling almost everything, not necessarily by choice but because we can't keep creating landfills and dumps.

    So my answer is that both analog and digital can safely recycle it's products in the future even though digital is extremely wasteful with its built in obsolescense.

    On the other hand I don't see where end users of analog like us, have ever created many problems except for the silver that can easily be captured. There may have been problems at one time though, in the manufacturing processes that were used.

    Michael
     
  18. Will S

    Will S Member

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    This is an interesting read:

    http://www.trueart.info/photography.htm

    I'm not a chemist, so I won't comment, but based on other government publications I've read I think a lot of it is a little over the top. And it doesn't even mention mercuric chloride, which scares me because I've read that some toners have it though I don't know which ones. They also seem to be overstating the toxicity of pyrogallo, though maybe I'm reading that wrong.

    This list is very useful I think:

    http://www.lightdreams.50megs.com/az chem.html

    Best,

    Will
     
  19. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I don't tone my prints. Mainly because I am at least aware and concerned about my darkroom effluents but also because I understand that to achieve permenance, the print must be toned to finality which changes it's appearance much more than I like. I hope that I can find a paper to replace Polymax with the same great d-max so that I don't have to rely on toning to boost them.
     
  20. L Gebhardt

    L Gebhardt Subscriber

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    Just about every thing we do in life causes polution. Driving to work burns fuel, but also involves the manufacture of an entire car every 7 to 10 years. Eating these days involves throwing away lots of plastic packaging, fuel to transport the food from half way around the world, tons of ferilizer and manuer run off, etc. I think the correlation between $ and pollution is very high. With that in mind, digital must pollute more since it costs more (not scientific at all I know). Of cource Kodak Park in Rochester is a very polluted place from years of chemical manufacture. I know when I lived there, there were major environmental concerns among the neigbors of Kodak.

    All in all I suspect photography (either form) contributes very little to the overall pollution in the world. Of course every little bit hurts and it all adds up to a lot of damge caused by humans. But in a few hundren million years the earth will ahve recovered and a new species will be messing it up:rolleyes:
     
  21. Aggie

    Aggie Member

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    As for toning, one of the biggest health problems growing in th world is the lack of selenium in our diet. It is a trace mineral/metal that we all need. Ask any diabetic what it would be like if they didn't have selenium. Selenium in our rapidly post agrarian society is seeing the results of depleted selenium in the soil. I have no fear that the little bits of selenium I use to tone with are going to impact negatively.

    As for the 2% glacial acetic acid, your stomach produces an acid that is far more potent and toxic. I would not reccomend drinking the glacial acid, but then I don't reccomend getting sick, and having the stomach acids hit your esophagus either. We do have those times, when we do get sick and we can't avoid it. No one ever worries about how that impacts the environment.

    The steel wool, is the kind without any soap incorporated. just put it in the spent fixer before you dump it.

    Most of the ingredients in photo chemistry were all mined or recovered from the earth. Most the chemicals in computers and their periphals are synthesized in the lab to make the plastics and such. Anyline dyes are nasty and highly poisonous.

    If we started to throw out our cameras at the rate computer/digital stuff gets tossed, I'm sure Jim Galli would find the dump and restore our past treasures and sell them on apug to help this site. He is our best person for recycling.
     
  22. argentic

    argentic Member

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    One of the dutch subscribers to apug sells B&W films, papers and chemistry. But he has a dayjob in a computer manufacturing plant. He recently assured me that digital is way more toxic than B&W analog, because the manufacturing of digital equipment involves masses of VERY toxic chemicals and waste.

    Aside from the silver in used fixer, all other normal B&W chemicals are harmless if disposed off intelligently. I don't know if this is true for color processing or toners too.
     
  23. 127

    127 Member

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    Vinegar is about 4% acetic acid. No one is stressing about the environmental impact of condiments!

    (though of course in the case of stop bath there's no telling what the other 98% is so putting it on fries could be very bad...)

    Interestingly the term glacial is because in it's pure state it freezes at just below room temp...

    Ian
     
  24. fingel

    fingel Member

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    Selenium in shampoo

    Have you ever looked at a bottle of dandruff shampoo? Selsun Blue if I remember right has 2% selenium sulfide in it as an active ingrediant. It smells just like my toner and they want you to put this stuff on your head? :smile:
    If someone washed their hair with that every day they would have way more Selenium in their system than from toning a batch of prints once in a while, pluse it would all go right down the shower drain.
    Ever since I saw that, I don't worry too much about selenium toner which I use only once in a while while waring gloves and exhosting it before disposal.
     
  25. TPPhotog

    TPPhotog Member

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    If your really concerned about the environment ... then don't take your car out to get to shoots. For street shooters the train or bus is a great source of potential material as well :wink:
     
  26. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    I would love to see a rating sheet featuring commonly used household solutions, drain cleaners, acids, bug sprays, lime and rust disolvers, bleaches detergents etc. compared to home darkroom solutions.