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Treatment of photographic processing wastes 1



6.5.1 Solution Regeneration Techniques

The collection of processing tank overflows and subsequent regeneration of solutions for
reuse can reduce the quantity of chemicals discharged by between 40 and 90%,
depending on the solution. In addition to process and product modifications that have
resulted in the use of fewer processing solutions, lower concentrations of chemicals in the
solutions, and reduced replenishment rates [114], regeneration and reuse have
significantly decreased the quantity of chemicals discarded from large photographic
processing operations. The following section discusses the considerations that impact
regeneration and reuse techniques for color developer solutions, desilvered fixers and
bleach-fixes, and bleaches.
Whether or not a specific processing solution can be regenerated and/or reused
depends on a number of factors. First, reuse requires that the reclaimed solution is or can
be made photographically acceptable. That is, sensitometric measurements, generated
from photographic test materials processed with the reclaimed solution, must meet
specific quality standards.
Secondly, the practicality of regeneration techniques will depend on the size of the
photographic processing operation and the consumption rate of the solutions. If
sophisticated equipment and techniques are required, a small photoprocessing operation
will most likely not have the technical expertise or be able to afford the capital
expenditure needed to regenerate certain solutions.
In most photographic processes, fresh replenisher is added to each solution tank at a
predetermined, fixed rate while the exposed product moves through the process, to
maintain a certain minimal concentration of each required chemical in the processing
solution. However, individual chemical constituents may be depleted at varying rates due
to differences in exposure, size, or photographic characteristics of the photographic films
or papers, differences in the rate they are fed through the process, effects of oxidation or
carry-in of other solutions, and so on. While the replenisher formula attempts to correct
for this as well as possible to maintain a chemical balance, the need to discard unwanted
byproducts means that overflows from processing tanks will still contain large quantities
of good chemicals that can potentially be reused. The exact techniques chosen for
regeneration depend on the balance of unwanted vs. wanted components and their
chemical nature.
Efforts by Eastman Kodak Company and other manufacturers have resulted in
alternate options for specific photoprocessing solutions that use low replenishment rates.
These produce much of the environmental benefit that can be realized by regeneration.
Medium-to-large photoprocessing facilities are urged to explore the costs vs. benefits of
these options for their own particular situation.

Color Developer Regeneration

Color developer solutions become exhausted through the oxidation of developing agent
and the increased concentration of reaction products, which may significantly reduce the
activity of the solution. In most cases, the limiting factor for reuse is the increased halide
concentration. Therefore, to reuse color developers, the halide concentrations must be
controlled. Two approaches are employed to control the halide level.
First, the undesirable reaction products such as halides can be removed. A strong-base
anion-exchange resin such as Rohm & Haas IRA-400 or its successor is usually chosen to
remove bromide and chloride ions from the solution. If proper techniques are used, this
treatment may also remove other constituents such as color developing agents and
oxidized color developing agents, but only to a very small extent. This regeneration
method was applied to color developers from the color paper, reversal color paper,
conventional color film, Kodak Ektachrome reversal film (in limited applications),
Kodachrome reversal film, and Eastman Color motion picture processes [115121]. After
the halides have been removed, the purified solution is then collected and analyzed, and
required make-up chemicals and water are added to bring it to replenisher strength.
Previously, these regeneration techniques required considerable analytical capabilities.
This limited the use of developer regeneration to only large laboratories having such
Secondly, some color developers can be reclaimed using the reconstitution technique.
The overflow is collected and specific amounts of chemicals added to bring the solution
back to replenishment strength. This method was used in some color processes including
Eastman Color motion picture films and subsequently for color paper processing. The
benefit of this approach over ion exchange is that minimal equipment is needed, desired
chemicals such as color developing agent are not wasted by being adsorbed on the ion-
exchange resin, and there is no need to discard regenerant solutions having high salt
concentrations. During the past several years, developer regeneration kits have become
available that minimize analytical demands, usually requiring only pH measurement and
therefore making the technique available to smaller laboratories.
Besides significantly reducing the concentration of color developing agents discharged
to sewer systems, the reuse of color developer solutions can produce substantial COD
reductions. Use of developer regeneration for color paper presents minimal risks because
the paper can always be reprinted if not satisfactory. However, application to color
negative or, in particular, color reversal films represents a much greater risk because a
customers film may be ruined if the reused developer is out of specification.

Bleach Regeneration
As previously described, bleaches contain oxidizing agents that oxidize metallic silver to
silver ion. Today most photographic processing bleaches use the selective oxidizing
ability of ferric iron in a chelated form, often as an iron EDTA complex [122]. Other
bleaching agents include iron PDTA, ferricyanide, and persulfate. Iron PDTA has
replaced iron EDTA in some bleach formulations as a more environmentally acceptable
bleaching agent because it is more active; therefore, less is needed to obtain efficient
conversion from metallic silver to silver halide in films [123,124].
Iron EDTA and iron PDTA bleaches used in color negative film and some color paper
processes are usually regenerated in large photo labs. In most instances, the bleach
overflow is collected and the ferrous ion oxidized to ferric by simple aeration, then make-
up chemicals are added to bring the solution back to replenisher strength [125].
In the case of persulfate bleach, the overflow is simply restored to replenisher strength
by running chemical analyses followed by specific chemical additions. Many persulfate
bleaches require an activator or accelerator bath preceding the bleach. Often, the
accelerator bath itself may also be reused by collecting the overflow solution and
bringing it back to replenisher strength, through specific chemical additions.
Regeneration is attractive to many photofinishing laboratories as a cost-saving
measure, and in most cases it will significantly reduce the amount of iron, chelating
agent, and COD discharged to the environment.
Ferricyanide Bleach Management. Although most modern processes use alternative
bleaches, ferricyanide is still the bleaching agent of choice for a few older processes such
as the Kodachrome and Ektachrome Aerial film processes, and in some instances as an
option in the Eastman Color motion picture processes. Ferricyanide bleaches underwent
intensive study over the years for the development of regeneration and management
In ferricyanide bleaches, ferricyanide ion is the oxidizing agent, which becomes
reduced to ferrocyanide upon use. Together, these ions and related forms of the iron
cyanide complex are known as hexacyanoferrates. The concentrations of
hexacyanoferrates in an effluent can be minimized by a combination of reliable
regeneration methods for the bleach overflow and recovery techniques for the fixer and
wash waters.
Ferricyanide Bleach Regeneration. Ferricyanide bleach regeneration requires
collecting the overflow and treating it with a strong oxidizing agent. Options include
persulfate, peroxide, bromine, ozone, and electrolysis [126]. When persulfate (once the
oxidant of choice) is used [127], the specific gravity of the solution may build up due to
the formation of sulfate byproduct. Eventually, after several regeneration cycles, the
sulfate concentration can grow high enough to reduce bleaching activity. This is usually
remedied by discarding between 5 and 10% of the overflow. In lieu of hauling away all
of the excess bleach, a precipitation technique can be used to prevent the wasted material
from entering the sewer (see subsequent section, Ferrocyanide Precipitation and
Recovery). Note that this same chemical recovery technique can be used to remove
ferrocyanide from a fixing bath, when a fixer instead of a water wash step follows the
An alternative bleach oxidant to persulfate is ozone [128,129]. The use of ozone
requires a fairly significant capital investment in equipment, and safeguards to minimize
risk to personnel because ozone is a toxic and unstable gas. However, the specific gravity
build-up problem attributable to persulfate is eliminated (see previous subsection,
Another technique having many of the advantages of ozone without the risk of a toxic
gas is electrolytic bleach regeneration [130]. Ferrocyanide is oxidized to ferricyanide at
the anode of an electrolytic cell. Because of the reduction reaction that occurs
simultaneously at the cathode, the cell must be divided by some type of semipermeable
membrane. Also, since some hydrogen is produced at the cathode, reliable exhaust
ventilation is required. Commercial units are available (see previous subsection, Electro-
oxidation). This is the most widely used method today.
Recovery of Hexacyanoferrate from Washwater. In some cases, it may be necessary to
remove hexacyanoferrates from washwaters following a bleach or fixer. Because the
complexes will be very diluted, it is not feasible to use precipitation techniques. Two
options have been tried to concentrate these salts and allow them to be recovered:

1.Reverse osmosis can be used to concentrate the bleach components in washwater

[126]. By using high pressure (300600 psi), it is possible to produce a permeate
stream containing 90% of the volume but only a small quantity of hexacyanoferrate.
The smaller brine stream, although only about 10% of the flow, will contain almost all
the hexacyanoferrate complex. Although this technique has been demonstrated
repeatedly on laboratory and pilot scales, operational problems have limited its use in
commercial practice (see previous section, Reverse Osmosis).
2.Ion exchange has been proven in practice for removing hexocyanoferrate from
washwaters [131]. Rohm & Haas Amberlite IRA-68 resin was used successfully.
Experiments showed that 5060 g of hexacyanoferrate could be collected on 1 L of
resin before the effluent exceeded 1 mg/L hexacyanoferrate. Following ion-exchange
treatment, the resin can be regenerated with a sodium hydroxide solution, producing a
solution containing more than 25 g/L hexacyanoferrate (see previous subsection, Ion
Destruction of Hexacyanoferrate. Ferricyanide solutions were also treated by breaking
down the hexacyanoferrate to innocuous products through severe oxidation methods.
Hendrickson and Daignault [132] discussed the destruction of ferricyanide of
hexacyanoferrate solution by chlorination and ozonation. The latter was shown to be a
very slow process [63]. In one production system trace levels of hexacyanoferrate in
water were eliminated by adding a halogenated compound, bromochlorohydantoin.
Finally, although the chemical destruction of hexacyanoferrate solution by oxidation is
technically possible, it is generally not economical on a practical basis.
Fixer and Bleach-Fix Reuse
The primary factors limiting the direct recycling of fixers and bleach-fixes are the build-
up of silver, halide ions, sulfate, and, in some cases, oxidized developer products that can
stain the product. However, with appropriate chemical treatment most fixers or bleach-
fixes can be reused, although the degree of reuse possible varies from solution to
When silver is recovered from the fixer or bleach-fix by plating at the cathode, the
sodium sulfite or other preservative is consumed at the anode, causing a pH decrease. In
addition, the fixer or bleach-fix will have been diluted by water or carried-in products
from the preceding tanks, usually including developer oxidation products. To counter
these effects, the unwanted components must be at least partially removed and make-up
chemicals added to rejuvenate the desilvered overflow to replenisher strength.
The first step in regenerating either a fixer or bleach-fix involves collecting the
overflow and desilvering the solution by electrolysis to a silver level of between 0.5 and
1.0 g/L. Lower levels are usually not attempted because of the possibility of sulfiding,
which would irreversibly contaminate the solution.
A certain percentage of the desilvered overflow is saved for reuse. This can vary from
a low of approximately 50% for the Kodacolor C-41 to as high as 75% with Kodachrome
fixer. Make-up chemicals are added, and the fixer or bleach-fix can then be reused. The
portion that cannot be reused should be further desilvered to a low silver level prior to
A more common technique used by many processing laboratories is in-line
desilvering, as previously discussed. With this method, the electrolytic desilvering cell is
plumbed directly to the fixer tank. The tank solution is continuously desilvered to silver
levels in the range 0.51.0 g/L. This permits lowering of the replenisher rate and
effectively reduces the amount of fixer used per unit of film or paper processed. Again,
reductions in fixer use of 5075% can be obtained, depending on the process [92].
In some black and white processes, a considerable amount of developer is carried into
the fixer by the film. During electrolytic desilvering the developer is oxidized at the
anode and, if allowed to build up, could form objectionable stain on the product. In at
least one x-ray film process, a technique has been devised to pass the fixer through an
ion-exchange cartridge after desilvering. The ion-exchange resin effectively removes the
staining material so that at least 50% of the fixer can be reused. A similar method has
been used in the past to remove excess bromide or iodide.
The regeneration method for desilvering and reusing bleach-fix varies slightly from
the method for reusing fixer. In some color paper bleach-fixes, the overflow is collected
and the pH adjusted to over 7 to facilitate electrolytic silver recovery; for other
formulations such pH adjustment is unnecessary. After desilvering to between 0.5 and 1.0
g/L silver, a certain portion is saved for reuse. Aeration may be performed to reoxidize
the ferrous salt back to ferric (although in many cases, the solution spontaneously
reaerates itself simply upon standing or when being pumped to and mixed in the
processing tank). Make-up chemicals are added together with water to bring the solution
back to replenisher levels. A significant percentage of the bleach-fix can be reused.
Reuse of fixer and bleach-fix effectively reduces the ammonium ion, thiosulfate,
BOD5, and COD concentrations in the effluent [98]. Alternatively, use of low-
replenishment rate, nonregenerated bleach-fix formulations will also significantly reduce
the above-stated effluent parameters. Thus, bleach-fix regeneration is an effective silver
management tool.

6.5.2 Chemical Recovery

Methods Introduction
Certain chemicals can be recovered individually from waste solutions even when the
overall solution can no longer be salvaged. Often these are primary ingredients of a spent
processing bath; in other situations, they may be foreign ingredients carried in from a
preceding tank. Occasionally, it may be technically possible and economical to purify
them in the laboratory and reuse them directly in a process. Other times the recovery may
be done simply to extract a waste material that cannot be discharged to a sewer and
isolate it for separate disposal.

Recovery of Color Developing Agents from Stop Baths

If color developing agents are carried over into bleaches or bleach-fixes, they are
irreversibly oxidized and can no longer be reused. However, when a stop bath follows the
color developer solution, the color developing agents remain essentially in their original
form and can be recovered. A recovery method frequently used in the motion picture
industry is to collect the stop bath and pass it through a column containing an ion-
exchange resin such as the Rohm & Haas XAD class of resins [133]. The color
developing agents will be adsorbed on the resin. A method developed by Linkopia in
Sweden [134] then uses alkaline color developer solution to strip the color developing
agents off the resin for reuse. This technique is useful when a processing laboratory must
meet very stringent discharge limitations for color developing agents.

Coupler Recovery
In the Kodachrome film process, cyan, magenta, and yellow couplers are present in the
three separate color developer solutions. (In all other processes, they are incorporated in
individual layers within the color film or paper.) The Kodachrome couplers are all
soluble in an alkaline solution but will precipitate at neutral or acid pH. Therefore,
recovery becomes simple. The developer overflows are individually collected, pH is
lowered (usually with sodium bisulfate, dilute sulfuric or acetic acid or carbon dioxide
gas), and the precipitated coupler is then removed by centrifuging or filtration and dried
for storage. When needed, the dried coupler can be resolubilized in alkali (usually
preceded by a grinding or homogenizing step to make mixing easier) and reused.
Analytical facilities are required for this technique [135].
Ferrocyanide Precipitation and Recovery
Although ferricyanide and ferrocyanide (together hexacyanoferrates) have relatively low
toxicities, to the degree that they are even used as ingredients in foods [5,6], they can be
of concern because they have the capability of being degraded very slowly (often a matter
of months) through photolysis, especially by strong sunlight, to form low concentrations
of free cyanide [11]. Therefore, the discharge of hexacyanoferrate from a
photoprocessing operation must be controlled. Any overflow concentrates that cannot be
regenerated and reused, and sometimes washes or fixers containing hexacyanoferrate,
should be treated. A very effective technique has been developed for removing
hexacyanoferrate complexes from an effluent by precipitation [72]. The ferricyanide in
solution is reduced to ferrocyanide by the addition of dithionite or a similar reducing
agent. The ferrocyanide is then precipitated by adding ferrous sulfate, to form insoluble
ferrous ferrocyanide; this technique is generally used to recover ferrocyanide from either
fixers or washes following bleaches. The precipitate is removed by filtration or
After washing off by-product salts, the precipitate can sometimes be reused in new
bleach solutions by redissolving in alkali and reoxidizing it, although this latter method is
usually economically feasible only for a very large production operation having good
analytical capabilities [73].

Chromium Precipitation
As previously stated, chromium is a relatively rare metal in todays photographic
processing laboratories, although it is used in a few black and white reversal bleaches as
well as some process system cleaners. When a dichromate bleach is mixed with other
processing solutions that are alkaline, and with solutions containing reducing agents such
6+ 3+
as thiosulfate and sulfite, the Cr is reduced to Cr and precipitated as chromium
hydroxide or other insoluble particulate matter. The chromium 3+ precipitate is then
removed during primary or secondary clarification at the wastewater treatment plant as a
component of the sludge.
If necessary, because of sewer code discharge limits, chromium can be recovered from
solution in the processing laboratory by precipitation. This is done by collecting the
chromiumbearing overflow in tanks and reducing hexavalent chromium to the trivalent
state by adding bisulfite or dithionite. The chromium is then precipitated as an
amphoteric chromium hydroxide solid by adjusting the solution to pH 8 with an alkaline
material such as dilute sodium hydroxide. This sludge can then be removed by settling
and decantation, filtration, or similar techniques. The chromium hydroxide sludge will
need to be managed according to applicable Federal or State waste management

Phosphate Recovery
During the 1970s there was great public pressure to remove phosphates from many
discharge sources, primarily household detergents but including industrial wastes,
because of the general absence of adequate municipal treatment facilities and the
resulting eutrophication of streams. At that time, great effort was put into reformulating
photographic solutions to exclude phosphates. Only small quantities remain today,
generally as sequestrants to prevent calcium in hard water from sludging or crystallizing
in process solutions and damaging emulsions, or for buffering high-pH developers. These
levels are generally so low that no pretreatment would be required by the average
laboratory that discharges to a POTW.
However, should phosphate removal be required because of particularly stringent
discharge limitations, it can readily be precipitated by various agents, particularly lime
(calcium hydroxide) or alum (potassium aluminum sulfate). Unfortunately, the resulting
precipitate is a sticky mass resembling toothpaste or milk of magnesia, from which it is
difficult to extract water. Successful ways of handling and dewatering this sludge include
evaporation, filtration on a vacuum belt filter or in a filter press, or drying of the solution

6.5.3 Conservation
A number of techniques can be applied in a photoprocessing laboratory to help reduce
chemical discharges to the sewer. These methods include the use of squeegees, careful
maintenance of replenishment rates, use of holding tanks and floating lids, and washwater

Squeegees are used to reduce the carry-over of processing solutions and washes. Both
environmental and economic benefits result from their use. When properly installed and
maintained, they can reduce carryover by 75% or more. This reduction can mean, in turn,
that replenishment rates will be lowered significantly and regeneration efficiencies
optimized. Squeegees are usually installed after all washes in a processing machine, and
before and after all solutions being regenerated. Specifications for recommended
placement of squeegees should be checked for each particular process to reduce
carryover, minimize water spots, and prevent emulsion damage.
Squeegees exist as many different types, including wiper blades, vacuum squeegees,
wringer-slinger, air squeegees, and so on [136139]. The type to be used will depend on
the photographic product being processed, the particular solution tank (e.g., some of the
most flexible synthetic rubber squeegees used on downstream tanks could not survive the
relatively harsh alkaline environment of the developer tank), the kind of processing
machine, and the level of technical expertise available in the laboratory for installation
and maintenance.

Replenishment Rates
The replenishment rate required for adequate processing of a photographic product will
depend on many factors including the following: the nature of the photographic product,
speed at which it is being transported through the machine, temperature of the solution
(especially for developers), concentration of chemicals in the replenisher solution, rate of
build-up of seasoning products in the solution, design of the machine (certain
configurations introduce more air into the solution during operation than others), and the
overall utilization (i.e., running vs. standby time) of the processing machine.
Photographic product manufacturers will provide specifications for replenishment rates
required for a particular product under varying processing conditions. An adequate safety
factor is built into these recommendations. It is important that a processing laboratory use
the recommended rates. Although too low a rate could cause adverse photographic
results, too high a rate will result in a waste of chemicals and money. Therefore, all
processing laboratories should periodically check and adjust processing solution
replenishment rates.

Floating Lids
The use of floating lids on solution storage tanks will help reduce the aerial oxidation of
easily oxidized chemicals, as well as evaporation. As the solution level drops, the lid
stays in contact with the solution surface to eliminate any air space. It also safeguards
against airborne dust and dirt and accidental contamination by other laboratory chemicals
and materials. It helps protect the quality of the processed materials, helps extend
solution life, and thus lessens the dumping of stored solutions gone bad. All these
factors play important roles in the environmental as well as economic health of a

Washwater Conservation
Washwater conservation can be important for many reasons, including water shortages in
some locations, energy and fee savings associated with reduced water consumption, and
hydraulic limitations and/or discharge fees imposed on effluent discharged to municipal
sewer systems [140]. A laboratory can conserve water in several ways. These include
simple steps such as checking water supply equipment for leaks, using recommended
wash rates, and running washwater only during actual processing.
Several methods can also be applied to reuse washwaters. Reverse osmosis and other
membrane separation techniques have been chosen in a few instances, but their use is not
widespread because of cost, maintenance, membrane life, and operational problems that
to date remain largely unresolved.
Perhaps the most commonly practiced methods of reducing water use involve ion
exchange. A process such as the former PACEX water recycling system incorporated
ionexchange technology together with filtration and bacterial control to remove
contaminants [71]. In such a process, an anion-exchange resin removes silver thiosulfate
complex from solution. An oxidizing agent subsequently oxidizes residual thiosulfate to
sulfate and a biocide minimizes biological growth. A filter removes unwanted sediment.
Depending on the process, reduction in washwater usage from 5080% may be possible.
This method not only conserves water and recovers silver but also provides energy
savings by minimizing the quantity of fresh water that needs to be heated. Other
manufacturers have announced similar water reclamation systems in the past.
Washwater reuse raises several technical concerns. In each case where such a system
may be considered, the reputation and track record of the manufacturer should be
checked. Some water savers simply filter and pump water back to the processing
machine; however, the same result may be achievable merely by lowering the water input
rate. Some more sophisticated water recirculation devices are available (especially for x-
ray or graphic arts processes) that keep track of the amount of photographic material
processed and sound an alarm after a predetermined amount is reached, indicating that
the water should be changed.
On a number of occasions during the past century, magnetic or other mechanical
water treatment devices that do not consume either energy or chemicals have been
offered to the public, allegedly to purify water or stop the growth of microorganisms, but
reportedly without any true scientific basis for making such claims [141145]. We are not
aware of any instance where these have been proven effective in a photographic
The photoprocessing laboratory has the responsibility of ensuring that any recycling
device operates properly and is constantly monitored for chemical build-up, such that the
quality and storage life of processed films and papers do not suffer. Improper operation
may damage the customers photographic product. Also, washwater reuse will cause the
effluents discharged from the photoprocessing laboratory to be more concentrated.
Although the total chemical loading will not be higher, higher concentrations could result
in exceeding the sewer code.
In 1981, the EPA published a Guidance Document for the Control of Water Pollution
in the Photographic Processing Industry. In its conclusions, the report states, the
agency does not recommend the use of concentration-based limitations for controlling
pollutants at facilities in the industry [7]. The report goes on to state that limits based on
concentration tend to discourage water use reductions, whereas the agency encourages
the reduction of wastewater quantities by various water-saving controls. Unfortunately,
this recommendation has been largely ignored, and because discharge monitoring is more
difficult by other methods, most municipalities continue to use concentration-based
limitations. Therefore, before installing washwater conservation or reuse equipment, it is
important to check its potential effect on the laboratorys continued ability to use the
municipal sewer system.

6.5.4 Management of Laboratory

Wastes Good Housekeeping

Careful operating procedures in a photoprocessing laboratory can have a significant
impact on the laboratorys typical effluent characteristics as measured over a period of
time. Careful mixing of processing solutions will minimize dumping of concentrated
processing solutions because of an error. Frequent maintenance of squeegees, tanks, and
rollers, and readjustment of pH, temperatures, and replenishment rates will also aid in
decreasing the waste of processing solutions and chemicals in daily operations, as well as
enhancing quality of the product.
Holding Tanks
One way to lessen the potential impact of having to dump contaminated solution tanks to
the sewer in batches is to use holding tanks. A holding tank should have enough capacity
to contain the largest sudden processing solution dump that a laboratory might anticipate.
The solution batch is pumped to the holding tank and then slowly released over an
extended time interval through a valve to the drain, where it is combined with other
normally generated processing and nonprocessing effluents. This approach will ensure
that a sudden dump will not adversely affect the microorganisms in a secondary waste
treatment plant.

Alternative Offsite Disposal and Waste Concentration Options

Some situations occur in which it is not possible to discharge processing solution
overflows to a sewer. This may be due to stringent sewer codes that cannot be met or
because no sewer system is available. Under these circumstances, it may be necessary to
have the solutions hauled offsite by a waste disposal company. Such services will then
treat the solutions at a centralized waste treatment facility. It is important that the
company chosen be reputable and comply with all pertinent regulations; if not, the
photoprocessing laboratory could be held liable for illegal disposal of the waste. The use
of offsite disposal may require the processing laboratory to comply with its States waste
management requirements, including storage, safety factors, and labeling provisions.
Before signing a contract with such a waste disposal company, the laboratory manager
and his or her chief technical assistant should personally visit the disposal facility.
Facility personnel should be asked to describe or demonstrate their methods for handling,
storing, and disposing of waste solutions. They should be able to produce permits and
licenses to operate, as well as inspection records. Copies of such documents should be
furnished to the prospective customer laboratory for its permanent files. The ultimate
disposal of wastes from the treatment facility should be clearly stated, and the service
company should be willing to furnish a signed statement to the laboratory, after each
chemical pickup, that the laboratory no longer has title to the waste. The officers and
principal stockholders of the company should be known, and their names checked with
the state regulatory agency to be certain that they have no past record of waste-handling
violations. A Dun and Bradstreet report or equivalent should be requested on the
company to verify its financial stability, to ensure that it has sufficient funds to properly
treat all wastes that may be in current storage at its treatment sites. The above
requirements are subject to regulatory change; an attorney should be consulted before
A laboratory that needs to use an off-site waste disposal company will often find it
very advantageous to minimize waste volume. On-site evaporation of water from the
waste is the most widely used technique. Properly designed evaporators are simple to
operate, either manually or automatically, and can generally remove from 85 to 95% of
the water from a photoprocessing waste, depending on the original composition. Up to
99% may be removed if only washwaters are evaporated, but this may be too costly an
approach for these very dilute solutions because of the energy consumed. A better
approach might be to use a water purification method such as ionexchange to clean up the
wash water, then simply concentrate the ion-exchange regeneration chemicals in the
evaporator. Preadjusting the pH of the solution before evaporation may be necessary to
prevent the formation of unwanted gases at high or very low pHs.
Before purchasing an evaporator, local regulatory codes should be checked to
determine whether operating permits will be required. It is also important to make sure
that the waste disposal firm will agree to handle the more concentrated waste. In addition,
an economic check should be made to ensure that the smaller volume of more
concentrated effluent will not cost as much to dispose of as the higher volume of more
dilute, unevaporated effluent, when both wastehauling and disposal charges and the
purchase and operating costs of the evaporator are included (see previous section,
In some branches of the photographic industry (particularly medical x-ray facilities
and some minilabs), solution-service companies may contract to pick up silver-bearing
waste from a photoprocessing customer, including overflow fixer, silver flake from
electrolytic units, exhausted metallic replacement cartridges, and even scrap film and
paper. The materials are processed and a credit for silver, minus the processing and
refining charges, is returned to the laboratory. Sometimes, these companies will perform
maintenance work on the processing machines and recovery devices, and may act as
dealers to supply new chemicals and film or paper to the customer during their visit. With
the advent of new waste regulations, these companies may be properly licensed to also
haul away other wastes from the laboratory on routine pickup cycles. This option,
although sometimes costly, frees the laboratory from having to worry about waste
discharge and allows it to concentrate on processing photographic film and paper. The
silver credit can help defray a significant part of the cost for such a service.

As a final comment, the management of any chemical waste discharges, including
photographic processing wastes, is a constantly shifting target, both because of evolving
regulations as well as advances in photography and waste treatment technology.
Consultation with manufacturers of photographic products and reliable engineering and
legal sources should be sought by any laboratory considering the appropriate, up-to-date
management of its particular waste stream.