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
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
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
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
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
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
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.