Fixer and the Environment

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by kathryn_treacy, Aug 18, 2016.

  1. Take it to the county guy and he will pour it down the drain for you.....
  2. If I do, I'll ask him about that, because I'd be willing to just use the fixer once and pour it down the drain. Could be I've been making too much for this, but after all this time, it's worth trying my best to do it right.
  3. Do as your conscience dictates.
  4. I suspect that the county guy can't just pour it down the drain, without knowing exactly what it is.

    In Seattle, we have household hazardous waste collection sites.

    Among others, they worry about mercury. They collect fluorescent bulbs, thermometers, and mercury switch thermostats.
    I suspect that they would also want mercury containing photographic chemicals. (Also Hg batteries, I have brought some of those.)

    I also bring them NiCd batteries, as Cd is pretty bad. Other batteries aren't so bad, though I believe that they will take them.

    There are limits meant to keep things to household size, though.
    I suspect that there is another system for industrial hazardous waste.
  5. I just got to say -
    Hooray for Alan Marcus! - he's a "value-added contributor"
  6. Yep, Alan is a good one for general background insider info on the industry, and to help put things in perspective.

    I would quarrel a bit about some of the finer details, though. For example, in the US, photofinishers who use the municipal sewers are subject to neither federal nor state standards with regard to silver in their effluent. Rather, these finishers are subject to local municipal regulations. The local municipality has laws regarding exactly what concentrations of certain chemicals are permitted to go to their sewage treatment plant, aka the POTW (publicly owned treatment works).

    Many of the municipal regulations were established by people who didn't really know what they were doing; they largely copied the details from other towns. Consequently there was a wide range of permissible values for silver concentration. A good number of municipalities would set limits at about two-tenths to three-tenths of a milligram of silver per liter. This is just virtually unachievable for a run-of-the-mill finisher, so they are forced into using a licensed hazardous waste hauler to take their silver-bearing waste to a treatment/disposal specialist. (Thus the invention of the "washless" processing systems, to minimize what has to be hauled.)

    Now, the person who DOES use a waste hauler IS subject to federal (and possibly state?) regulations, etc., where I THINK that anything over 5 mg silver per liter, where it is possible for the silver to be leached out, is considered to be "hazardous waste." It's kind of a nutty situation, where the POTWs, who are going to treat the effluent, are sometimes using a max allowable silver concentration, for the photofinisher, that is roughly 20 times lower than the federal haz waste number. On top of that, studies have shown that the photographic silver is relatively benign, being somewhere between 10 and 30 thousand times less toxic than ionic silver (such as you would get by dissolving silver nitrate, for example). Well, I guess I did enough grousing for the moment. (I already gave my advice earlier.)
  7. Chlorine is not per se an acid. It's hydrolysis products: hypochlorous acid and hydrochloric acid are.
  8. County email hasn't gotten back to me yet. I did find a pretty extensive booklet on how to handle a wide variety of stuff related to pouring down the drain. Very informative but they didn't mention photographic chemicals. I suspect it's because compared to what things were like in the 70s or 80s, there is very little black and white photo processing going on these days. No drug store I know of does it (they print from digital cards now) and most photo stores are gone. Only professional places and a few quirky places tend to do it, or places where you send film away to. Moving On might be right in the contention that they probably don't care that much because though it might be an issue, it's probably not high on their list of problems. No rush though, I'll see what they tell me.

    Plus I learned they have an annual community recycling event in July.

    I wonder if it turns out I should just pour it down the drain, if I would be better off using it once and then pouring. That way I might pour more often, but it still wouldn't be THAT often and the fixer would have a lot less silver in it (from only 1 roll). Maybe it would be be the same deal -- 2 12oz pourings of 1 roll's worth vs. 1 12oz pouring of 2 rolls worth? And I could dilute it further before pouring in either case. Or maybe there is something I could mix it with before pouring, though I'm not sure what. I watched some more videos, and one of them poured a couple of chemicals into the fixer and seemed to precipitate most of the silver down to the bottom of the jug (it was a clear plastic jug) and then they poured off the stuff on top. I think they went on to pour the silver powder though some kind of sieve and then reclaim it somehow. But even if I didn't reclaim it, that precipitate looked pretty small and they were doing it from some kind of industrial system that had a LOT of silver in it relatively speaking.
  9. That seems more helpful if you’re setting up a business to do photoprocessing professionally. It’s hard to parse that for what the individual should do. On the one hand, someone doing 1 film a week is probably not expected to run his processing like a commercial photoprocessor. On the other hand, there probably ARE some recommendations, whether nationally or locally, that do apply ... maybe. I looked at the EPA as well, and like Alan’s document, it’s mostly about regulating people who do this professionally and whose output is heavy enough to really cause a health hazard, or at least a hazard to the water processing of the local water plants. But even the document I found locally was a lot more worried about paint and batteries and weed killers and insecticides, etc.

    We all know that technically the silver is potentially harmful, at least to water and sewage treatment, but I guess the question is whether it’s really bad enough that a gallon two from a private household, or 12oz a week poured down the drain is really something the local water treatment folks are going to actually bother regulating. And there is always the public disposal day next July.
  10. carbon_dragon likes this.
  11. That one said that [at the time 1999] home processors weren’t required to recover silver. That may still be the case (probably is). It also says it’s a good idea and you can use the Kodak chemical recovery cartridge (no longer available now, looks like a bucket which probably includes steel wool) and also says you might be able to dispose of it in local waste disposal services run by your local government. One interesting new thing it says (that I didn’t know) is that it’s easier on the system if you combine your developer and your fixer before pouring down the drain because one is acidic and on is a base so they tend to neutralize each other.

    I’m perfectly willing to manually pour the fixer slowly through steel wool into a bucket. As a matter of fact I already have that stuff. What I don’t know though is what to do with the resulting sludge/steel wool and the document doesn’t say. Also the bucket I have isn’t sealed like the Kodak “cartridge” so I’m not sure if it generates any fumes I would need to worry about. Also the document is mum about how one disposes of the used Kodak cartridge/bucket.

    I used to bring my used fixer to Wolf Camera’s main store in Atlanta. Sadly, Wolf no longer exists, except as a brand name.

    Digital bits (1’s and 0’s) are a bit easier to recycle!;)
  12. Methinks that was mentioned in this thread.
  13. Until you consider the silver in the electronics and the lithium in the batteries......
  14. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Carbon - are you "fixated"? ;) Perhaps a quick shot of Hypo eliminator followed by a large water chaser?:D Actually went down the same path when I first moved into the country - without Alan and some of the other helpful folks here, it was much harder to track down the info. Finally decided that even my septic could handle the tiny quantities in question. No problems, also very tiny volume.
  15. God help us if someone’s wedding band goes down the drain....
  16. Maybe. If I don't hear from the county guys I may do just that. What Is Hypo Eliminator -- Hypo Clear?
  17. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Same thing. I shouldn't joke about it - a guy I knew followed some instructions on use of a different chemical given him as an obvious joke and almost died.
  18. Found another "stash" of spent fixer! (hiding behind the paint) I thought I had more of this stuff. Looks like just over 2 gallons. But in future it would probably be only about 2-3/month at the most.
  19. You didn't do what I suggested in post #35, did you? That is, to see if the liquid you have can still clear a bit of film leader...

    My guess is no, it won't clear film, which would suggest that the active component of the fixer, thiosulfate, has decomposed, leaving a sludge in the bottom of your jugs. Virtually all of the silver would most likely be in that sludge. In essence, it would already be "recovered."

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