Words - Industry - The photo waste recycling bombshell (2003)


The photo waste recycling bombshell (2003)

Across Europe, photographers are rising to the challenges laid down by EU directives on the handling and recycling of what is deemed to be ‘hazardous waste’. John Chillingworth investigates the implications of orders from Brussels, some of which bites in the UK on 1 August 2004.

Once upon a time, on a Friday evening, as bombs fell or V2 rockets made Fleet Street darkrooms feel distinctly unsafe and when the rest of the staff had left, a lad call Chillingworth opened the window of the tiny Picture Post magazine darkroom. He poured neat hydrochloric acid into the developing dishes and proceeded rub them vigorously.

Safety being paramount, rubber gloves and an apron were always worn, but there was no protection from the choking fumes. The steel dishes were soon clean and sparkling. The residue was then unceremoniously poured down the sink and into the sewers, which emptied into the subterranean River Fleet.

Today, as everyone in the photo industry knows, such a practice would not just be unwise, it would rank as an appalling environmental hazard.

Article 16 of the Water Framework Directive (the 'WFD', 2000/60/EC), for example, required the European Commission to prepare a Priority List of dangerous substances, which present a significant risk to or via the aquatic environment.

In short, very soon the UK will have to conform to Europe-wide controls and standards in measures aimed at the progressive reduction of pollution from discharges.

The Brussels pollution saga
Residing in the same stable as the EC officials who are preparing to ban yoghurt from Britain, because it does not conform to their definition of a standardised Euro-pudding, other little grey men have been equally busy.

They are, right now, honing final legislation for the UK after a three-stage consultation process, which circumscribes the dumping of hazardous waste in landfill sites.

The photo industry’s objection to the description of photo chemical residues as ‘hazardous waste’, have long since been swept aside and the key word in current deliberations has become ‘recycling’.

For many years, manufacturers, prolabs, minilabs, hospital radiography departments and individual users of photochemistry have been aware of the advantages of silver recovery from the analogue film and photographic developing and printing process.

Well ahead of the game, Silver Lining Industries the licensed, specialist hazardous waste haulier, with a nation-wide recycling and silver recovery operation is already used by many photographic enterprises.

Having achieved ISO 14001 accreditation – one of the most coveted Environmental Management Systems specification standards; the company’s WasteCare Division already serves a broad spread of industries.

Therefore, in almost every case, including photochemistry residues, solvents and inkjet inks, ‘haul-away’ costs are highly competitive, because their multiple hazardous waste contracts mean economy of scale for every user of its service. In some cases, the silver recovered goes a long way toward amortising the cost altogether!

However, haul-away is, by no means the only recycling and disposal solution. Companies like Metafix UK and Aspire Industries market in-house silver recovery units, but there is, as yet, no certainty that their products will comply with the soon to be implemented EU Hazardous Waste Directive.

You’ll need a license
The shock-horror of legislative changes predicted for the UK photographers and the photo industry does not stop at the current requirement for ‘hazardous waste’ to be handled by licensed, specialist hauliers.

In parts of Europe, including Germany and France, the creators of chemical residues as well as their contracted hauliers, are both licensed. If they are well run, they are coping so, in theory, should we!

The licenses are not expected to be expensive, but then they are not the prime reason for legislative changes. They most certainly contribute to accountability. Every last millilitre of chemistry purchased, used and removed from your premises will have to be accounted for, on what every government department delight in – forms!

Don’t panic! One solution is already up and running. Other may follow. When Silver Lining, recently launched its new web site, which provides details of its ‘Total Environmental Waste Management Service’, it marked, they claim to be the start of a new era in corporate responsibility completely devoid of ‘spin’.

Well before August 1st you are going to need is the assurance of environmental compliance The new web site provides waste producers with the latest official information, highly competitive market prices, the means to obtain a quote and arrange a collection.

If you look for an efficient and comprehensive service and significant cost savings, play the field if you like, but you could do worse than look at current information on WasteCare Online, so visit www.wastecare.co.uk  .

But that’s not all!
Have you ever heard of the EU generated WEEE (Waste Electronic & Electrical Equipment) Directive? You will!

At first glance, it may have no connection with photographers and the wider photographic community, but ‘residual asset re-utilisation’ will affect everyone who upgrades IT hardware and that includes even cameras! Watch this space and we’ll tell you about that, too.

© Copyright John Chillingworth