Safely Handling Photographic Materials

Photographic materials contain a variety of potentially harmful materials that may not be discarded down the drain or in the regular trash.  Spent film and photographic chemicals may contain trace amounts of silver, a toxic heavy metal compound regulated at the federal, state and city level.  New York City Department of Environmental Protection has regulated the discharge of silver halide waste waters since 1996. 

Effluent or spent fixer must be passed through a silver recovery unit to minimize the discharge of silver into municipal waste waters.  Additionally, unwanted film form the development process also contains silver.  Columbia University has implemented a silver recovery program, please check out our website for further information.

If you have any questions as to how to dispose of your photographic materials, please consult your Safety Coordinator or Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) at x4-8749.  

Disposal of photographic materials (insert picture):

  • Fixer - fixer may contain trace amounts of silver.  Therefore, it must pass through a trickle tank style filtration unit.  These units are maintained quarterly by EH&S.  If you notice a problem related to the unit, please contact EH&S at x4-8749.

  • Developer – developer often contains hydroquinone.  This material is not permitted to be drained disposed and may not be run through the trickle tank filters.  Unwanted developer must be managed as hazardous waste and submitted for a chemical/hazardous waste pickup.  Please refer to our hazardous waste guidelines, the 5Ls, for further guidance.

  • Scrap film (insert picture) – scrap film contains trace amounts of silver and must not be thrown in the trash.  The scrap film must be placed in a scrap film collection container. These containers are maintained by EH&S.    NO SHARPS OR TRASH ARE PERMITTED TO BE DISPOSED OF IN THESE CONTAINERS. If the scrap film container requires service, please contact EH&S at x4-8749.