Non-toxic developers

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Nicholas J. Coscoros, Jul 11, 2003.

  1. I live in Greece, where safe disposal of toxic darkroom chemicals is
    non-existent. People laugh when I tell them I would like to take my used
    chemicals to a collection center.

    Yesterday I bought a box of Microphen and another one of Perceptol and I
    discoovered to my horror that they are both rather toxic to marine
    organisms. I also do a lot of u/w photography and I think it would be
    extremely unfair and selfish of me (over and above evry other
    environmental consideration, it goes without saying) to enjoy that
    environment and its beauties while polluting it every evening through my
    darkroom sink.

    I would very gladly sacrifice some of my art for a little more
    friendliness toward the environment. Does anyone know of a b&w
    combination that is relatively, if not entirely safe for the environment?
    It needs to be afilm that comes in 4X5 sheets. FYI, I also use Microdol-X,
    T-Max RS, HC110, Refinal, Rodinal, Technidol. Any of these 'OK'? Doubt


    P.S. Switching to digital is out of the question.
    Nicholas J. Coscoros, Jul 11, 2003
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  2. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    Lew Guest

    Have a look at Kodak's xtol or Paterson fx-50.
    Lew, Jul 11, 2003
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  3. The films are all about the same... as long as you are doing black-and-white
    film photography, there's not much to be gained by changing films.

    Kodak Xtol ( is an unusually low-toxicity

    Fixer is the hard part. In itself, fixer is not toxic, but when it's used,
    it dissolves silver from the film. It is important to recover the silver
    before disposing of the liquid. There are well-established methods for
    doing this.
    Michael A. Covington, Jul 11, 2003
  4. I think you are pushing a rock uphill with your nose.

    You will have to find a developer with no sulfite in it, for example,
    because it reduces the available oxygen in the water.

    Most developing agents are organic compounds that affect organisms to a
    lesser or greater extent.

    To be fairly sure of doing no harm, you would need to compound a
    developer, stop bath, and fixer using compounds found free in nature
    with no refining done to them other than filtering out the rocks and stuff.

    IIRC, hydrogen peroxide is a developer under some circumstances (it
    certainly could be: its structure is a bit like a degenerate case of
    hydroquinone). You could use water as a stop bath. Possibly plain sodium
    thiosulphate would work for fixer without causing too much harm. The
    H2O2 (H-O-O-H) decomposes into nascent oxygen and water, so it might
    actually improve the quality of the water.

    Another approach would be to use cyanotype process, where no developer
    or stop bath is required, though you need to wash for a long time. Its
    sensitivity will probably be too low for your camera work, but you can
    print on it. The resolution and dynamic range I find to be unacceptable,
    but YMMV.
    Jean-David Beyer, Jul 11, 2003
  5. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    John Guest

    They are no more toxic than any other developer and I'd wager a good deal
    less toxic than the detergent you are using to was your clothes. If you want to
    neutralize them as much as possible simply pour the developer into a bucket with
    many holes in it near the top to allow fresh air in and the developer will
    oxidize completely in 3~5 days depending upon temperature.

    BTW, should we assume that you are using dilute development as well ? Most
    developer can be diluted 1:3 easily often much further.


    John S. Douglas, Photographer
    John, Jul 11, 2003
  6. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    friend Guest

    the simplest way, is to collect your spent chemicals into a jar, leave
    it ouside and let the sun and a wind do the rest. Once water
    evaporates, transfer all the remaining stuff into a can or small jar
    and toss with a houshold rubbish. Sulfites will oxidise to sulfates,
    hydroquinone and other developers will oxidise too. It should not be
    any worse that most of other things people toss to the bin.
    When you drain it through your sink, the lot will be processed by the
    waste authority. All is collected in huge installations, aerated and
    improved, before the effluent is pumped out. If you live in Athens,
    probably the installation is upgraded before the Games.
    friend, Jul 12, 2003
  7. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    Mathias Guest


    Your posting purprises me somewhat. Since Greece is a member of the EU, I
    think that it should be covered by the same regulations for waste disposal
    as the rest of Europe. And that means that whoever sold you the chemicals,
    are forced to take the used chemicals off your hand (for a fee) and make
    sure they are disposed off properly... Check with your local government, I'm
    sure they have an environmental department.

    And I totally agree with you. I'm a diver/photographer myself and I'd never
    dream about pouring fix and D76 into the water!

    Mathias, Jul 12, 2003
  8. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    Mathias Guest

    No, you are correct. I don't pour that kind of chemicals in to a sewage that
    will just be pumped into the ocean. I make sure that detergents and other
    "nasty" chemicals are disposed of in a system that has the ability to treat
    it properly. And when it comes to darkroom chemicals, and high contents of
    heavy elements, such as silver, I wouldn't compair that to soap and coffee
    when it comes to damage in the environment. And I'm suprised that you do,

    Mathias, Jul 12, 2003
  9. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    n.t. Guest


    I did some research in this area last year when looking at buying a
    house with a septic tank and now have a full sized ringbinder with
    helpful information gleaned from the net as well as old Darkroom mag
    articles and other such tidbits.

    For film and paper developers, Gainer Vitamin C Phenidone. (contact me
    privately if you want details or look at for
    the article by Pat Gainer). The least toxic of any developer because
    it only has three ingredients (maybe POTA pips it, but of limited use
    because it is highly specialised).

    Use the Ilford wash sequence for a water stop as well as a final
    rinse. I use an adapted technique for fibre paper. 6 _real_ changes of
    water per print in a tray at 20C over a couple of hours, with an
    initial carbonate 'hypo clear' as well.

    Fix is the biggest concern, this is where you have heavy metals
    (metallica hehe) in solution. If not doing toning will be your biggest
    concern. The only way to really be sure is to recycle fix. Big labs or
    Photo schools or Hospitals (X-rays) can take fix to recycle for the
    silver, find one near you.

    I have recently been reading about not using film for paper fix
    because of the dissolved iodide in film fix. You might want to
    consider using separate fixers and/or testing for fix exhaustion for
    each of them. Big prints use up fixer fast!

    Yeah - switching to digital is out the question.

    Regards, Nicholas
    n.t., Jul 12, 2003
  10. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    John Guest

    I don't. I was responding to the "horror" of the toxicity of Microphen and

    As far as fixer, just pour it into a bucket with some steel wool and the
    silver will be removed.


    John - Photographer & Webmaster -
    John, Jul 13, 2003
  11. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    John Guest

    I suggest all of the environmentally over-sensitives should stop breathing
    as you use more oxygen in one day than a gallon of D-76 and probably develop
    poorer images.


    John S. Douglas, Photographer
    John, Jul 13, 2003
  12. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    brougham3 Guest


    Given a choice, I prefer to use whatever is least toxic. I don't like
    overly toxic bottles of chemicals sitting around my house. That includes
    not only developers but "normal" cleaning supplies, as well. The fewer
    toxic crap I have, the happier I am. That has little to do with the
    environment and more to do with my family's health.

    That's one of the reasons why I'll develop B&W at home, but not color. I
    don't want the C41 chemistry sitting around at home.
    brougham3, Jul 13, 2003
  13. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    John Guest

    Never used VMI, always use stainless Kostiner tongs and have always had
    decent ventilation. I suppose it took some effort to think of that but I don't

    Also, I don't _over-react_ to such silliness. You can assuage your ego all
    you want by not pouring a developer such as Dektol down the drain but frankly
    it's probably simple vanity to think that you will have any lasting impact on
    the eco-system.

    Lastly, there is to date no documentation that hydroquinone and _most_
    other darkroom chemicals used in the rather minimal amounts that we use, are of
    any consequence to either the environment or to the person using them as long as
    common sense is used.


    John S. Douglas, Photographer
    John, Jul 13, 2003
  14. You mean like the sense common to someone who just said, "I suggest all of
    the environmentally over-sensitives should stop breathing as you use more
    oxygen in one day than a gallon of D-76 and probably develop poorer
    images."? You could have made your point simply by pointing out (and even
    better backing up) your claims of relative toxicity of darkroom chemicals
    versus commonly used substances. Of course, that's a double edged sword.
    Maybe we should stop using some of those substances. In any case, if you've
    been paying attention to the Pure-Silver discussion list, which you're on,
    you'd find that even very knowledgeable people don't have a good grasp of
    the toxicity of hydroquinone and catchetol, for example. It would seem to
    be common sense to minimize the environmental impact of our hobby where it
    is easy to do so. Personally, I'm going to stop using hydroquinone in my
    darkroom, just as I won't use lye for cleaning drains.

    -Peter De Smidt
    Peter De Smidt, Jul 13, 2003
  15. But when you use lye to clean a drain, it reacts immediately with the first
    organic or acidic matter it encounters, and it becomes relatively inert.

    This is one of the paradoxes of environmental chemistry. Highly reactive
    substances, which would be very harmful if ingested, are often not very much
    of a problem to the environment because they get neutralized the moment they
    encounter something to react with. As long as the quantity is not too
    large, there's no harm done. Much more serious pollutants are those that
    accumulate, such as lead.
    Michael A. Covington, Jul 14, 2003
  16. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    n.t. Guest

    Fix is the biggest concern, this is where you have heavy metals
    Oh and I forgot alkaline or neutral based fixers wash out much quicker
    than acid based ones. Any "Rapid" fixer should do the trick.

    P.S I smell a libertarian
    n.t., Jul 14, 2003
  17. My main problem with lye is that it's nasty stuff to work with. That, taken
    with the fact that mechanical drain cleaning has worked very well for me,
    means that I don't use lye for that purpose. Usually, drains can be cleaned
    with a good high pressure water nozzle and hose. Occasionally, I've had to
    resort to one of those rubber balloon devises that you put down the drain,
    or a plumber's snake. My point is simply that there's no need to use the
    more toxic stuff when less toxic stuff will do. The same goes for photo
    chemicals. As such, it's not out of line to try and minimize the
    environmental impact of our darkroom work, even if the overall effect is
    quite small. The same thing could could be said about most personal
    conservation measures. Still, if a lot of people do a little bit to
    conserve, this can add up to a significant amount.

    -Peter De Smidt
    Peter De Smidt, Jul 14, 2003
  18. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    Jorge Omar Guest

    I've seen somewhere that steel wool is a nice and inexpensive way to
    recaim silver from fixers.
    If so, just put some of it inside the used fixer for a couple of days
    before discarding (the fixer)

    Jorge Omar, Jul 14, 2003
  19. Nicholas J. Coscoros

    friend Guest

    consider that water and air can be lethal as well. John is right, all
    you enviro-huggies, need to learn more before you can make a learned
    decision. Your photo activity has a negligent effect, cow burps make
    more damage. It is nice that you have developed such a kindness, I
    hope you stopped driving a car long time ago and you stopped using
    electricity as well. That coal burning is horrible! Just calculate,
    how many trees are chopped off to manufacture one single sheet of
    double thickness baryta paper. How many cows were slauthered to
    produce that gelatine. How many nasties were used and released to
    manufacture yur cameras, lenses, electronic components, the list goes
    on. Definitely, photography is bringing us to the end...
    friend, Jul 14, 2003
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