Developing chemicals and laws?
I've been trying to do some research on this but am having a tough time getting answers specific to the city of Vancouver.
Developer/Stop Bath/Fixer... my question is are these okay to pour down the drain?
If not, where can I safely dispose of them?
Have you contacted specific departments within the city? I'm thinking of the public works department, sewerage department, etc. Or, you may have to go up one level, such as the provincial level (assuming British Columbia) or the state (if talking about Washington). Failing that, try contacting the national agency responsible for protecting the environment.
Originally Posted by dugrant153
There a site @ Kaslo & Broadway in Vancouver that takes most kinds of chems you have for disposal. I have not had problems there.
The answer lies in the Venn Diagram which describes the intersection of the following three phrases:
- "What people don't know won't hurt them."
- "It's better to ask forgiveness than to beg permission."
- "Ignorance is bliss."
Most lay people really are ignorant about the chemicals used in photography. As far as they are concerned, "All chemicals are bad."
They have no idea what the chemicals are, what they are used for or just how common many of them are:
Hydroquinone/Metol = An ingredient is skin whitening creams to remove age spots. (Not used very much anymore.)
Ascorbic acid/Sodium Ascorbate = Vitamin C.
Acetic acid = vinegar.
Sodium thiosulfate = An agent sometimes used as an antidote for cyanide poisoning. Also used in topical medications to treat certain forms of skin rash. (Pityriasis versacolor.) (Not common uses.)
These chemicals are fairly common and are all things that can be ingested or spread on the skin.
I wouldn't put concentrated stop bath on my salad nor would I eat powdered XTOL as a vitamin supplement but my point is that the chemistry we use to develop film is not nuclear waste. Properly handled and responsibly disposed of, the chemicals that the average home photographer who does not use any exotic chemicals or alternative processes should pose virtually no problem if disposed down the municipal sewer in reasonably small quantities.
If you are an industrial user or a business, things are different. You'll probably have to get a permit. But, the average guy who develops a couple-few rolls of film per week will have no problem.
One caveat is fixer. I would not dump used fixer down the drain. It contains dissolved silver which is an environmental pollutant. Secondarily, you can recover that silver and cash it in for money. The average home photographer won't get rich off the silver but, over the span of a year or two, it will likely be enough money to buy a dozen rolls of film and the chemistry to process it.
Here's what I've been doing: I recover the silver from the spent fixer then I store what's left in old 5-gallon buckets with tight fitting lids. I peel off the label from the original container and stick it on the sealed buckets. Our town has a "Household Haz-Mat Amnesty Day" where, one day a year, you can collect up all the old household chemicals, paint thinner, cleaning agents, used oil, etc., and turn them in to the municipal recycling center for free disposal. With that label on the bucket, I have not had any questions asked.
Past that, I would not go around asking questions. Most people, ignorant as they are about photography, have no idea what photographic chemistry is, what the potential hazards are, nor do they understand just how safe it is, given reasonable precautions. Out of that ignorance, most people will just make up their own answers with no regard to truth or logic. The most likely answer you hear will be something like, "Chemicals? You can't pour CHEMICALS down the drain!!"
You're probably better off not asking. Just go about your business in the responsible manner you already know how and let sleeping dogs lie.
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If you are using septic system, you should be very sensitive about disposing the chemicals, and there usually are ordinances. However, if treated by municipal sewer treatment plants, developers, stop, fix and wash aid are pretty benign. In some areas borates and hydroquinone are regulated. But otherwise, the common ingredients are not particularly damaging to the environment.
In my area, everything but fixer is ok to dump down the drain, because of the silver within. The fixer can be properly disposed of at the dump.
Developer and stop can both be dumped into a sanitary sewer without any harm. We routinly dump far worse down the drains without realizing it. Fixer should be taken to a toxic waste facility or de-silvered and made inert, there are easy methods of removing silver from it, and the price of metals makes it worth the effort.
call your local water/sewer authority, instead of getting advice on an internet message board.
on a message board you are going to get a variety of answers from " it deadly poisonous " to " none of it is toxic
they are all a bunch of dopes who say it is "
by calling your local authority you will get the actual answer to your question ..
some places have strict laws some don't.
where i live it is very strict, where i used to live they would fine people thousands of dollars a day for being non-compliant with
the rules and regulations governing photochemical waste.
if you find out that you have to dispose of your fixer, and you want to take some of the silver out of it first, feel free to contact me
i sell silver recovery systems that are inexpensive, and efficient.
good luck !
Regardless of the regulations in your area, get the SilverMagnet anyway.
Originally Posted by jnanian
Out of my last two gallons of spent fixer, I extracted almost an ounce of silver. That's a bit over $30 worth. I'll probably generate that much more by the time summer rolls around. By this time next year, I'll end up with that much again. If I keep going at this rate, that'll be almost $100 a year. That's enough to buy a brick of film. You can't beat that with a stick!
BTW: Even after I extract the silver, I'm still going to take my spent fixer to Haz-Mat Collection Day when it comes around again.