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!