Since the launch of our small business, The Film Safe, the importance of sustainable film developing is something that we have been aware of. Because of this, we have been actively working on refining and improving our operations to make them as helpful to you guys, and as healthy for the planet as possible! Furthermore, we know that sustainability has been a hot topic in the film community from way before our existence and has become an increasingly pressing issue as we begin to focus more on the longevity of our planet and start to demand more of ourselves, and our businesses.
Now, we want to be super honest with all of you, there’s no way (right now) to make all of our processes 100% eco-friendly and sustainable. It is well known that with the amount of chemicals, equipment and packaging involved in film, it’s just not possible for this process to be completely eco-friendly at this moment in time. But, we’re certainly not lying down and doing nothing or shrugging our shoulders and dismissing our responsibilities! So, we wanted to take a quick moment to let you guys know what we’re doing right now to offer you the most sustainable film developing possible.
Our Chemicals and film waste
First on the list and, ultimately, the most important – chemical handling! Whilst there are some slightly more eco-friendly options when it comes to chemical choices and brands, we have focussed our sustainable efforts on the handling and disposal of our chemicals.
We have employed the expertise of a long-standing business in the world of print & photographic waste management – J&G Environmental. Supplying us with plastic barrels, we fill these up, separating the ‘Fix’ chemicals from all the other chemicals involved in film developing (developer, bleach, stabiliser for colour; developer & stop for BW). Once collected, the fix is processed first through specialist machinery to extract the silver from the solution (back in the glory days of newspaper printing and film developing, there would be enough silver to create solid bars to be sold on to jewellers!). Without getting too scientific, it is known that heavy metals (such as silver) are both highly toxic, whilst also being super water soluble. Allowing these to seep into waterways, can lead to consumption by aquatic life and then by humans later in the chain – not healthy for any life form!
Once the silver content is extracted, the fix joins the other developing chemicals where it is submitted for ‘Biological Treatment’, exposing the hazardous elements of the chemicals to bio-digestion, neutralising and breaking it down into an inert liquid before further processing. J&G states that from their process, 95% of chemical waste is recycled into a re-usable material and provides a ‘very environmentally friendly solution to the [chemical] waste problem’.
As a bonus, J&G also take away the plastic pots sent by you guys with your orders and our chemical bottles to be shredded and supplied to other companies that use recycled plastic to create their products!
Packaging is one area we have got COVERED in terms of eco friendliness. We are proud to say that the packaging we use is eco-friendly, recyclable, compostable, biodegradable, sustainably sourced, carbon neutral AND plastic free. Phew! That’s a lot. Every element of our packaging is consciously chosen to be as good for the planet as possible, we wanted to make sure that we were having as little impact as we could on the planet so we took a lot of time researching the best and most sustainable practices for shipping. Our tapes are recyclable to make recycling our boxes easier. We get so many boxes that could so easily be recycled but they are unfortunately covered in plastic, non-recyclable tape that is often difficult to remove, if at all. We also made the choice to use phenol-free labels for your addresses, not many people are aware that the labels we see printed on our parcels can contain phenols which is bad for the environment as they cannot fully break down. They turn into micro plastics which, we know are bad for our oceans and marine life being digested by over 73% of deep-sea creatures. By choosing to use phenol-free labels, we are proud to be doing one more thing to help our oceans.
We haven’t stopped there though; our merch is shipped to you in compostable and reusable shipping bags that is another win for the planet! Even the stamps we use are made using 65% post-consumer plastics with acid free inks and a soy based reusable pads that are non-toxic for the environment. Noissue, is just one of the companies we are working with as part of an eco-alliance, “a growing community of businesses, makers and brands who choose to utilize sustainable packaging and are committed to being better together.” They also plant trees in areas in need of reforestation for every order placed. Another company that we work with that shares the same values is Priory Direct, this company also helps tackle deforestation by planting trees, is carbon neutral in its shipping and is where we get most of our eco-friendly packaging from with an assurance of the care they are taking for the planet. We feel that as a business, it is our responsibility to make these choices and to lead the way and show that it is easier than ever to be sustainable and do our bit for the planet.
Even the contents inside our parcels are created with the planet in mind. Our bags for your prints are recyclable, made from sustainably sourced eucalyptus paper, bamboo and recycled papers making them recyclable and biodegradable. Our tissue paper for our merch has no acid or chemicals in and our paper stickers are again, biodegradable.
We do our bit to recycle further within our business. When your orders arrive to us, we split the packaging into recyclable and non-recyclable elements, often tearing old tapes off mailbags, taking the bubble liners out and recycling all we can. We take off the plastic recyclable elements from your disposable cameras, and recycle the batteries too.
We are also constantly looking at our workflow and processes to try and find ways to reduce the waste leaving our lab. One way we have started to cut into our ever-growing collection of empty film canisters is to reload these with film bulk rolls of Ilford XP2 & rebrand the canisters with our lovely logo, to give them a second chance at life! Add to this, we provide a keychain to turn it into a keepsake after rather than it being turned back into waste.
We don’t want to stop here though. We are soon going to be introducing an extra ‘eco points’ scheme for eco-friendly parcels that are sent to us. Giving you points for just sending your parcels to us in recyclable packaging.
Finally, we also have an eco-conscious charity available to choose from our list on our website. As you know, we give 3% of our profits to charity one of which is Coral Gardeners, who do incredible work replanting and creating new ‘super corals’ that are able to withstand the new acidic and warmer waters giving new homes to our marine life. The work this charity does helps to educate people on how to save our reefs, keeps research going to save more of the reefs faster, and helps to monitor and grow these important corals to keep our eco-system healthy. So far, we have adopted 7 corals and are keen to see how much more we can do in the future to help this great cause.
So, even though we KNOW we aren’t anywhere near perfect, we hope that this read has put your minds at rest about what we do to make our practices as friendly as possible for the planet. And, we're always looking for new ways to improve and develop our sustainability!
A Challenge for you: If you can think of any good uses for our empty film canisters, or know anyone that may need/want these - please let us know in the comments, email or instagram DM's!