HWTR Pollution Prevention

My Watershed

Pollution Prevention Checklist for Photography and Photo Processing Departments

Photo: camera and photo equipment.

The Washington Department of Ecology encourages schools and laboratories to find safer alternatives to reduce, or even eliminate the use of toxic substances.

The table below lists common hazardous substances found in photography and photo processing departments and preferred alternatives (in bold font), if available. Best management practices that can be used to reduce and prevent toxic wastes are also included.

Throughout all departments there are common issues with proper management of dangerous waste that is generated on site.  The following bullets identify the most common issues and give best management practices (BMPs) for proper identification, accumulation, and disposal of dangerous wastes.

More resources are listed at the bottom of this page.

Download a printable checklist in Word, or pdf.

For more information contact your local Ecology Regional Office.

Items or Processes of Concern Toxic Metal Dangerous Waste Preferred Alternatives and Best Management Practices
Photo processing X


  • Switch to a digital imaging system.
  • Send unprocessed film and paper to a silver recycler.
  • Implement a silver recovery program.
  • Preserve film paper by using oldest first and storing it at a cool temperature.
Scrap film


Plastic film containers
  • Recycle if possible or dispose as solid waste.
Spent developing solution   Non-hazardous
  • Use a less-toxic preservative such as collodion with a fast-drying acetate.
  • Use low replenishment developers to substantially reduce replenishment rates.
  • Purchase developer solutions that contain less than one percent hydroquinone.
  • Segregate rinse water and developer solutions from spent fixer baths because silver recovery is more efficient in the more concentrated fixer waste stream.
  • Check with your local sewer provider for permission to dispose used developer in the sanitary sewer.
  • Do not dispose of spent developer to a septic system, storm drain, dry well, or ground.
Spent fixer

Bleach/fixer baths
  • Use low-silver content or non-silver-based film.
  • Replace ferric-cyanide bleach with ferric ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetic acid (EDTA), which is less hazardous.
  • Use low replenishment bleach/fixer to reduce replenishment rates.
  • Use floating lids or balls on bleach containers to keep it fresh.
  • Squeegees can be used in non-automated and some automated processing systems to wipe excess developer liquid from the film and paper. Squeegees can reduce chemical carryover from one process bath to the next.
  • Segregate spent fixer baths from rinse water and developer solution because silver recovery is more efficient in the more concentrated fixer waste stream.
  • Use a low-flow wash after the bleach fixer. You can remove silver that could be carried into the wash, where it is more difficult to remove.
  • Cover the fixer bath when it is not in use to prevent evaporation or release of toxic vapors and gases.
General inventory    
  • Use Environmentally preferable purchasing.
  • Review Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSs) for hazardous substance information.
  • Properly store hazardous substances.
  • Review curriculum for potential hazardous substance reduction.
All generated waste streams

Spilled products

Unused and expired products
  • Use chemical inventory and tracking software to centralize product ordering, improve product tracking, storage requirement, waste management, reduce disposal of expired product, and minimize duplicate orders to prevent unnecessary disposal.
  • Identify all potential waste streams and establish designation procedures to determine if a hazardous waste or non-hazardous waste.
  • Implement dangerous waste designation, collection, accumulation, and disposal procedures for all waste streams.
  • See Common Dangerous Waste Compliance Issues.

Fluorescent lamps
  • Use rechargeable batteries.
  • Use LED lamps when appropriate.
  • Use low-mercury fluorescent lamps.
  • Implement a battery recycling program and recycle as Universal Waste.
  • Implement a whole-lamp recycling program and recycle as Universal Waste.
  • If not recycled as Universal Waste collect, manage, and dispose of as dangerous waste.

Electronic equipment

  • Use energy-efficient computer and electric equipment, and appliances.
  • Replace mercury-containing equipment with non-mercury equipment.
  • Use vendor take-back programs.
  • Surplus old equipment.
  • Recycle as Universal Waste.
  • If not recycled as Universal Waste collect, manage, and dispose of as dangerous waste.


This page last updated September 2015