Dark room guidance and photo and film processing

Photo & Film Processing

Photo and film processing operations (including X-rays) on campus generate scrap film and two primary liquid waste streams of concern – developer and fixer.  These wastes are potentially regulated by the DEP as a hazardous waste and or by the MWRA as an industrial wastewater.  There are reporting requirements for all locations which discharge photographic waste to the drain.  It is critical that these locations be identified to the EHS office and should be reviewed prior to installation.

  • Un-used photographic chemicals which are no longer needed should be collected and disposed as a hazardous waste
  • Spent developer is typically non-regulated and can usually be discharged to drain with no treatment. The SDS should be reviewed to ensure that no MWRA regulated constituents are in the developer.
  • Spent fixer typically contains silver at levels which would classify it as a hazardous waste if disposed. Without treatment spent fixer will also exceed allowable MWRA discharge limits for silver and pH.

There are two general approaches for Fixer treatment on campus. 

  • Point of generation – Some labs have installed silver recovery devices at the point of generation.  These typically are integrated with automated film processors and employ metered flow through a media which traps the silver.  The cleaned fixer is typically then combined with the developer to adjust the pH and discharged directly to drain.
  • Collection for centralized treatment – Some labs rely on the EHS office collect their fixer waste for treatment in a central unit managed by the Environmental Management Program.

Treatment at the point of generation will typically be required for any newly installed photographic or film processing.

Film, negatives and paper may also contain levels of silver or other materials which would classify them as a hazardous waste.  This is not typical for general photography, but specialty films such as X-ray or aerial photography film, or old (pre-1951) movie film should be evaluated for hazardous characteristics prior to disposal.

Contact the Environmental Management Program of the EHS office with any questions concerning your photographic waste.