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  1. #1

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    dig vs. analog on the environment

    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. #2
    Flotsam's Avatar
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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.
    That is called grain. It is supposed to be there.
    =Neal W.=

  3. #3
    thedarkroomstudios's Avatar
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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. #4
    Loose Gravel's Avatar
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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.
    Watch for Loose Gravel

  5. #5
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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.
    Non Digital Diva

  6. #6
    thedarkroomstudios's Avatar
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    Lol, Aggie... I hear Perma Wash is much better than Metamucil :P

  7. #7

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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.
    "Fundamentally I think we need to rediscover a non-ironic world"
    Robert Adams

  8. #8
    blackmelas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggie
    Use steel wool to pull out the waste silver ...
    How do you do this? Simply throw a bit into the exhausted fixer? or is there other equipment involved?
    Thanks James

  9. #9
    Troy Hamon's Avatar
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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. #10
    Andy K's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aggie
    Please do not drink your chemicals though. Nothing is going to develop besides a good case of the runs.
    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.


    -----------My Flickr-----------
    Anáil nathrach, ortha bháis is beatha, do chéal déanaimh.

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