Bathroom film development and safe disposal of chemistry
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?
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.
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.
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.
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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.
Originally Posted by david b
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.