Green Report: Traditional vs. Digital Photography
We’ve been slow to post as of late for a miriad of reasons but one recent piece by an oft-cited source just demanded to be passed along. NOW Magazine took on a quetion I’ve been mulling around in my head for the last while in its latest ecoholic column, “What’s more environmentally friendly, traditional or digital photography?”
Fortunately, the volume of chemicals needed to print traditional photos has dropped 96% since 1968. Nonetheless, those chemicals still add up; of most concern is silver, a water pollutant (found in film, then transfered to photoprocessing water). The rest of the chemicals in the processing stew are said to be non-toxic and largely biodegradable in municipal water treatment plants (although sewer overflows might mean some end up in lakes and streams – a very bad thing). But just know that your prints aren’t recyclable, thanks to the chemical coating on the paper.
What about digital? Technology has been advancing in leaps and bounds, so almost all new digital cameras use rechargable batteries and go through them much less quickly older models. Printing digital images does not involve the same chemical bath as film but inks are still used to print those pics. Most are water-based, but some pigments contain toxic heavy metals and ozone-depleting VOCs. Still, those prints can and should be recycled with yur household paper. And they can also be printed on Energy Star-certified ink jet printers.
Furthermore, digital cams have an upper hand ecologically in that most people don’t bother printing 95 per cent of their pictures. Sure, you’re using up computer power to look at those images but we all have computers anyway - few of us bought them just to upload digital images The main downside to digital is partly our own fault: people keep buying new ones when it’s really not necessary.
And interestingly enough, single-use cameras might be the greenest option of all. Despite being called disposable, they’re actually returned to the manufacturer and their parts are either ground down and remoulded or just reused about 10 times. In fact, they have the highest recycling rate of any consumer product.