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Thread: Alternate grocery store processing chemicals for B/W film?

  1. #1

    Alternate grocery store processing chemicals for B/W film?

    I'm going to risk repeating the questions and go ahead and ask...

    Other than the caffenol process, are there other grocery store methods to develop film? Especially things that are less toxic and pretty much follow the same lines as caffenol. Dumping hazardous chemicals into my septic just isn't wise, everything in caffenol seems pretty safe to just go down the drain after silver recovery (if possible), but having more than one choice would be nice.

    Now if you can come up with a B/W reversal process that uses a chemical to fog the film instead of light, and is made from grocery store items and is safe, that would be most awesome.

  2. #2
    I think someone has figured out how to make film developer out of Tylenol capsules. It's known as "acetaminenol" or some such name. But doesn't sound safe for septic systems, any more than any other film developer.

    I think the problem with being septic safe is that conventional developers use a base pH solution, which is then stopped by an acid stop bath. These pH changes don't sound micro-organism friendly. Maybe you could try a holding tank where your developer and acid waste streams are first mixed, then the pH is adjusted as needed to neutral, before dumping into your septic system.

    As for the fixer, let it sit in a tray with steel wool, and it'll do what's referred to as "electrode-less plating," where the silver in solution will slowly over time plate itself onto the steel wool. There's still also sulfur compounds in fixer; letting it sit out in a tray permits the liquid to evaporate and you're left with a dry film of sulfur and silver residue. You could use those inexpensive plastic disposable painters trays, from the hardware store. But make sure no children or pets can get to it.

    The other aspect of working smart around photo chemicals is to extend the life of your solutions so you reduce the volume of waste stream. When developing 4x5 sized paper, I use a Jobo test print developing bottle that requires as little as 45ml of solution to develop two negatives at once. I use a water bath between developer and stop, and another between stop and fixer, so that my little cups of stop bath and fixer can be reused many times before exhaustion. And for paper negatives, I've found the developer itself can be reused again and again before it becomes too weak. Although with Harman DPP, it's more reliable with a one-shot developer, so it's more wasteful of developer. But I will often save the used Harman developer and reuse it for conventional paper negatives.

    "There was just that moment and now there's this moment and in between there is nothing. Photography, in a way, is the negation of chronology."-Geoff Dyer, "The Ongoing Moment"
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  3. #3
    500+ Posts Ned.Lewis's Avatar
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    Jul 2012
    Sonoma County, California
    I don't know if any silver comes off paper or film when developing. I'm on a septic too. I do a lot of what Joe mentioned to reduce the volume, then save the dev/stop to eventually go into a municipal treated sewer. The fixer I save to go to the hazardous waste facility. I also use containers to develop paper, re-use my stop and fix, and re-use developer for paper negs. I make quite a few darkroom prints too and the volume output is very manageable, maybe averaging about 2 gal / week. For all paper prints and paper negatives, I do one wash first to get most of the silver, and then the final washes are in the kitchen sink. Same with film... the first wash is saved for disposal.

    Another good trick is to have a little bottle of water and re-use it for washing test strips... I change it out each time I make a new batch of fixer ( which I only make 250ml at a time. ) This helps with the workflow for developing in containers instead of trays too... because I can make a series of test strips without having to leave the darkroom ( mine has no running water. ) So, I can walk into my darkroom and come out with my final print.
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  4. #4
    The coffee, vitamin C, and washing soda are pretty common and safe things, but the silver might prevent the growth of the bacteria that you need to have a working septic so I want to remove it.

    Once I get set back up, I do have a Jobo ATL-1000 that I'll be able to run (if it still works, been in storage for 10 years) and I can spit the chemicals out into bottles and cart them back in for disposal, but I like the thought of less toxic things from the start (argument could be made that cheap instant coffee is highly toxic when consumed, but that's just from the taste )

    Now all that said, I don't plan on running service center volumes, but a roll every week or so might be normal.

  5. #5
    Why not read Kodak tests of normal photo chemistry and septic systems?

    Not a problem with home hobbyist amounts.

    Looking for ways to use odd chemistry for any reason other than 'better negs' is a fools bargain.

    Once you screw up the negative, you are screwed.

    Use the tried and true methods with conservation standards for residual chemical removal and you will be just fine.

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