Disposal of old photographs / negatives

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Member for

18 years 6 months

Posts: 761

Currently sifting through some forty years worth of old photos & negs, scanning those of any interest to me. My problem is how can l get rid of all of the detritus in a safe and responsible manner. If it all gets binned is there any material which could be harmful to the environment when it ends up in landfill? I also have a concern that photos could be found and subsequently used in an inappropriate manner, although I think the chance of this are very small. Has anybody else gone through the same process of disposal?

Original post

Member for

16 years 8 months

Posts: 564

I sorted all my negatives into holiday shots and after scanning burnt them.Any family negatives were scanned and saved in a negative file binder .Just have a bonfire with stuff you dont need,you will feel better afterwards !!!

Member for

17 years 6 months

Posts: 8,983

I wouldn't bin them, my friend used to work at a tip and a famous Company used to once every few months dump all those images that would be censored by them, you know the story...
You send your film in for development, they develop them, in them are some compromising pictures of the wife etc... you get your pictures back, the ones of the wife are not there, but a note is included saying they cannot develop these because of the law etc....... but they had to as part of the process and they were checked and removed prior to return to you.
Anyway I digress, he said you could always tell when they had been because there would be photos of peoples wives in various states of dress blowing all over the site.
As said bun them in one of those dustbin incinerator things, or shred them. I would tend to keep negatives though, as they are a historical document in the making.

Member for

18 years 11 months

Posts: 1,084

If it all gets binned is there any material which could be harmful to the environment when it ends up in landfill?

That's taking environmental concerns to a whole new level 91Regal, I am most impressed, most of us would probably simply have shredded, burnt, or binned them without a thought.

Presumably any "risks" would be the inks/colour compounds left on the prints, and likewise the colour compounds left on finished negative strips or transparencies.

However, as the vast majority of the mass of a printed photo is the paper itself (cellulose, clay and possibly some whitening agent like titanium dioxide - all likely to breakdown without any concerns), and the vast majority of the mass of a negative strip or transparency is gelatin(e) (apart from any glass or plastic in a transparency mount), then unless you are dumping photo prints and negatives on an industrial scale I would think the environmental impact is pretty small - but I stand to be corrected if others know better.

As others have said, burning them, or shredding them would prevent subsequent retrieval and mis-use - but burning them in large quantities may also release any "nasties" into the atmosphere, or concentrate any non-volatile nasties in the ash residue, whereas dumping in their original (albeit shredded) form would dlute any nasties, and perhaps release them more slowly as the paper/gelatin breaks down over time.

I wonder if "composting" prints and negatives (or unmounted transparencies) might work given they are mainly degradable materials? Or why not recycle (shredded) prints via paper-recycling collections etc?

Let us know what you find out, as I am sure many of us keen-amateur snappers face the same problem at some stage.... or our kids will face it when they clear out after we shrug of this mortal toil...

Member for

14 years 1 month

Posts: 4,996

I recently had a similar issue, after my father passed away just before Christmas. He had accumulated lots of photos and slides over the years.
I went through them quickly, consigning most to the skip. He never looked at them, and most of were no interest to me.
The same goes for most of the photo albums we have (pre digital)... They are rarely looked at, and one day, either us or someone else will chuck
them in the rubbish. They are of little or no interest to anyone else. A shame, but that's the way it is.

Member for

19 years 4 months

Posts: 597

You could always do what the well known ex publishing company, that I worked for twice started doing before they were put into administration....

Sell them off at Auction? Most of the auction lots of pics that we sold were bought up by private collectors for small (ish) amounts of cash.

As for binning them.................Yikes I suppose it depends on the historic content?/

Its something thats worried me for years, not least as I will have the same problem sometime in the future


Member for

17 years 2 months

Posts: 798

What tends to happen - in this country - is that they turn up at my front door.

I seem to have become the repository of other peoples (largely but not exclusively) aviation photo collections.

Member for

13 years 7 months

Posts: 722

95%+ of an image (neg or paper) is just cellulose, paper IOW (even a negative is another form of paper).

It is only a thin layer on that cellulose that holds the ink and the image.

Likely not enough possibly hazardous chemicals to be concerned about. However there could be enough silver to be worth recovering? ;)