Photo Negatives: How to Scan and Responsibly Recycle Them

Photography has come a long way since the days of film negatives, but many people still have stacks of picture negatives taking up space in their homes. If you're looking to free up some room, it's important to dispose of your negatives responsibly. Let's discuss recycling your picture negatives in an environmentally friendly way after you've preserved the images from this old form of photography.

Types of Picture Negatives

Photographic negatives come in various formats, each offering unique characteristics and applications. Among these, the 35mm negative stands out as the most popular and widely used format. It measures 35 millimeters in width and is known for its versatility, having made it the preferred choice for amateur and professional photographers alike. The 35mm format gained widespread popularity due to its convenient size, ease of handling, and compatibility with a range of cameras. Other common negative formats include 100, 126, 127, and a wide variety of non-standard picture negatives. Most negatives were made from cellulose acetate, but older and more rare negatives were produced on glass. It's important to know the type of negative you have so you can recycle it properly and reduce its impact on the environment.

Store Negatives Properly

To prevent damage to your negatives during storage, place them in a protective container such as a cardboard box or plastic bag. Label the container to indicate that it contains negatives and that it should be handled with care. When storing your picture negatives, it's important to keep them in a cool, dry place. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or high temperatures, as this can cause them to deteriorate over time. However, the best way to store picture negatives is a JPEG digital files.

Scan Picture Negatives

Consider scanning your picture negatives so you can preserve the memories they contain. In fact, it's wiser to scan these negatives than the photographic prints! The digitizes images can be stored on your computer or in the cloud. Digital files are easy to share with friends & family. If you're planning for DIY scanning, make sure to purchase a picture negative scanner, because a "positive" photo or document scanner will not work.

Recycling Old Negatives

Google local recycling options to find a facility that will properly recycle your photographic materials. Some local waste management and recycling centers accept used photography developing chemicals, old photographic film, and picture negatives. These centers have the equipment and expertise to properly recycle your negatives and ensure that they are disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.

Negative Scanning Services

Professional digitizing companies offer negative scanning services. Not only will they produce high-quality scans for every type of picture negative, but many will responsibly recycle your old negatives upon completion. Be sure to choose a digitizing company that transfers the digital images to an online option so you can confirm the digitized quality before having the picture negatives recycled. Once safely preserved, enjoy digitally sharing your priceless images with friends & family.


Written by John Rahaghi


Can u recommend a place in Chicago that will accept photo negatives for recycling?

Sharon Thompson on Apr 16, 2024

I have a large bag of negatives that I do not want to scan, but to throw away in an environmentally friendly way. Please advise me how to go about this.


Meg Jordi on Apr 07, 2024

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