Fixer, Developer, Mother Earth : LUSENET : Large format photography : One Thread

Like an ancient craft, black and white silver based photography has so much creative karmic energy linked to it (due to it's rich history and the mass of humanity that has delved into it) that I consider it a priviledge to be able to work with it - even in the face of eventual complete digital revolution.

But, I wonder if there are any other B&W photographers out there who may be feeling likewise elated, but also somewhat guilty (as I) about the chemicals we use and the thought of what they might be doing to our home earth? (To say nothing about all that perfectly good rinse water that passes almost directly from the spigot to the drain in the wash.)....

It's my hope that this strand might generate a reasonable idea or two about how to more safely dispose of toxic darkroom chemicals we LF developers/printers use in our home darkrooms. Andre

-- Andre Noble (, January 11, 2001


Our Studio in Germany takes used chemicals to a re-cycling depot. Wether or not they are then properly "disposed of" in a earth-friendly matter or not, I don't know.

And doing the "right thing" has it's price as well. When recycling say, 150 liters, it costs us about $60. It's no wonder that more people don't recycle. It amounts to being penalized for doing the "right thing".

-- William Levitt (, January 11, 2001.

Andre, to your question possible solutions are, hold all waste in a large drum and heat it ot evaporate the water, and dispose as a solid waste. other possiblity, see web site.


-- Bill Jefferson (, January 11, 2001.

Water isn't "wasted" any more than a tree that falls in the forest & isn't used to be cut into finished lumber to build a house is "wasted". If you are really worried about this, go to making your own cotton fibre paper & albumen prints & help keep a chicken employed.

-- Dan Smith (, January 11, 2001.

But you'll still need fixer, even with an "earth-friendly" homemade albumen paper.

-- Chad Jarvis (, January 11, 2001.

I bought an 8x10 Cachet Eco-Washer. It uses very little water and makes print and also negative washing a lot easier. Water itself may not be "wasted" but depending where you live it is taken out the ground where it probably is not as quickly replaced or it is taken out streams and rivers where other creatures need it. The great Colorado River doesn't ever reach the ocean anymore most years. Mono lake is being drained along with other places for LA. So the water gets redistributed in ways that are harmful to other living things and places. Here in Seattle I pick up the water out of the Cedar River watershed where salmon spawn but there seems to be quite an abundance of it.

As for fixer, I have a little machine I'm trying to figure out how to use that allegedly takes the silver out of it. I can't figure out if the silver collects on the flat plate or the rod. If anyone knows, tell me.

The only other thing I can offer is to take your art seriously and don't waste materials or chemicals on shabby work. And give something back once in awhile - in the US our Supreme Court just took an enormous bite out of the Clean Water Act, saying essentially that the federal government doesn't have jurisdiction to mandate water protections on small waterbodies that aren't used for interstate commerce. Some State Legislatures will see this as an opportunity to give polluters flexible permits to do WAY more polluting that you or I will ever do. Such things need to be opposed, in my view. Maybe you can use your LF skills to assist in such efforts.

-- Erik Ryberg (, January 11, 2001.

I live in the San Francisco Bay region. We are not allowed to put fixer down the drain because our water treatment plants cannot remove it and the treated water is put back into the bay. The silver in the fixer is toxic to marine life.

We can reclaim the silver ourselves, sell the fixer to a reclaim agency (I suspect large labs do one of these two) or turn it in at our household hazardous waste station, which is what I do.

The water quality agencies here assure me that the developer & stop bath are not an environmental problem (perhaps these are treated in their processing) but suggest mixing them before putting them down the drain to make the pH more neutral which will be less corrosive to drain pipes.

Since I follow their guidelines for disposal, and I believe they know their subject, I see no need to have concerns.

During a drought year, however, I would cease processing activities to conserve water.

-- Charlie Strack (, January 11, 2001.

I'm not sure how scientific this observation is, but my house is on a septic system, and I've been dumping developers and stop bath down the drain since moving here about nine years ago. (About four years ago, I started taking fixer to the waste drop in town). Not a pleasant thought, perhaps, but a septic tank working properly is a complex eco-system in miniature. I've had the system tested twice, most recently about four months ago, and have been told that it remains in perfect balance. All the organisms that belong there seem to be thriving.

-- Lyle Aldridge (, January 13, 2001.


I stopped using stop-bath for film development after hearing Steve Anchell say that cold water worked just as well, maybe even better for some conditions, in the Film Developer's Cookbook. I'm going begin disposing of the used Fix in some less problematic way though. Right now its just going down the drain.


-- Robb Reed (, January 19, 2001.

I too am very concerned about these issues. I have been considering using Kodak Xtol developer instead of HC-110 because it looks significantly less toxic for disposal. Possibly very safe for sewer disposal. Any thoughts?


-- Scott Jones (, January 30, 2001.

Any B&W developer is safe for sewer disposal, in reasonable quantities. In fact I take mine directly to the wastewater plant and dump it in the soup there, since I live on a septic.

As for people dumping used fix down the drain, it may very well be illegal whether you are on a septic or sewer. If it isnt illegal for septics, it should be. Check your local regs. In most areas it can be taken away as household hazardous waste, which in my area is free for amateurs (though inconvenient). Or, as I do, take it to a photo lab that will recover the silver.


-- Wayne (, February 01, 2001.

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