You might know that I've recently set up a new darkroom after leaving all my equipment in the US. As part of this new setup, I got some Rodinal to try as my new developer. And I made a mistake.
A few days ago, I published a video of me developing one roll with Rodinal, and then dumping it down the sink. I'd done some research on the Internet, and most of the information said that it was completely safe to do so.
Turns out, it's not.
Someone pointed it out to me and I immediately took the video down. I don't want to "inspire" someone else to make the same mistake. That's also why I'm writing this post.
Read the Material Safety Data Sheet for your developer
I should've done this before even buying Rodinal. Adox is very clear about how to dispose this developer (PDF):
do not allow product to reach sewage system
These Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) are available on the manufacturer's website, and many online photo stores. Free Style Photo has information about Rodinal, Ilfotec HC, Kodak D76 and plenty more.
Kodak has also published some interesting guidelines: Kodak Environmental Guidelines for Amateur Photographers.
As a rule of thumb, do not dump anything if in doubt.
That being said, dumping developer is fine as long as the local regulations allow you to do so. All developers are not made equal, though, as it was the case with Rodinal. Always check the safety data sheet.
And remember: do not dump used fixer, ever.
And also remember: do not dump anything if you are using a septic system.
It does matter
"Most common developers and fixer are no more harmful than most common household cleaning products - and probably less harmful in the small batches produced by most home darkroom hobbyists."
You'll find lots of comments online like this one. The reasoning here is that the chemicals we use for developing are not that dangerous, and if they are, well, we already dump worse things down in our sewage.
I find this a little bit concerning. It should be the other way around: let's try to stop dumping hazardous cleaning products as well, instead of increasing even more the amount of poisonous stuff we throw away.
First thing I did was to buy two bottles of Ilfotec HC, my old developer. While I intend to bring the developer along with my fixer to a facility where they can treat them, it looks like Ilford's is not nearly as toxic and bad as Rodinal.
It gives me a little peace of mind, in case there's a spill or something similar happens.
I love shooting film, but I love nature and the environment much more.
PS: I was also a little bit disappointed by the results I got with Rodinal: a little bit too sharp in my opinion.