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Because You Asked

Can I Recycle Old Photographs?

By Recyclebank |
A hard drive full of photos is one thing; a shoebox full of prints is another. Here’s what you need to know about keeping them from going to waste.

Dear Recyclebank: Are photographs recyclable? –Terry L.

Dear Terry:
Photographs are fond reminders of good times, but they can pile up and get out of control before you know it. Digital photography has certainly simplified storage in some ways, but most households still have boxes of photos lying around from the days of film cameras.

While photographs are primarily a paper product, they can’t always be thrown in the bin. The traditional photographic process suffuses paper with chemicals, making them a potential contamination hazard for an entire batch of recycling. Not all photographic prints are off-limits, though. Many newer prints created from digital files don’t require chemicals for development and can be treated as glossy paper (like you’d find in magazines) for recycling purposes. If your handler accepts mixed paper, newer prints are probably safe to recycle. If you don’t know the photo’s age or composition, or if it doesn’t tear like normal paper, err on the side of caution and don’t recycle it.

If your old photos can’t be recycled, what can you do with them? It’s simple: Reuse them! With the holidays on the way, there are any number of ways you can repurpose these family treasures to spread joy. Sentimental family members will love a well-curated photo album or a handmade collage. You can even make postcards to send to loved ones.

If any of the pictures are of historical interest, you also may want to consider contacting your local historical society to see if they’d like a donation. Give those memories a chance to live on!

How do you keep your photo memories alive outside a shoebox? Let us know in the comments!
Share with Your Friends & Family
  • virginia s. 12 days ago
    just went through a mountain of photos and divided them by families. Each family will be getting an envelope with pictures of their family, that they haven't seen before.
  • ramona y. 18 days ago
    You can sell them on ebay. People by them like crazy
  • Susan Mayer C. 26 days ago
    I put them into a photo book from Shutterfly. I can fit at least 100 photos in there, caption them. It is thin enough so they don't take up a lot of room and I enjoy them.
  • John S. 27 days ago
    Ink has chemicals
  • Mary Ann B. 27 days ago
    Anyone working on your family tree would love these photos. Ask around.
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