You absolutely can recycle x-ray film. However, it isn’t really a simple process. This is because you cannot just take it to a local recycling center and ask them to deal with it.
X-ray film is recyclable. It can’t be brought to a traditional recycling center, however. It will need to be sent to a specialty recycling company which will recover the silver in the film and dispose of the remaining materials in the proper way.
Instead, you have to go through a rather special process. That is what we mostly want to discuss on this page.
Can You Recycle X-Ray Film?
Absolutely. In fact, it is important that the x-ray film is recycled. It contains silver which, of course, is a precious metal. It is important that we try to recover this as much as possible. After all, the medical industry relies heavily on silver. We do not want to be putting too much into landfills as it can drive the price of silver up, which can make certain forms of medical care more expensive.
How is X-Ray Film Recycled?
The only part of the x-ray film that can be recovered will be the silver. Everything else in the film is pretty useless on the recycling front. That will have to go to a landfill.
However, don’t worry. The recycling center will handle that part for you.
To process involves the film being heated to 2000C. At this point, the silver will become molten and can be easily extracted from everything else.
The silver will not be pure, though. Further chemicals will need to be added to the molten silver to help purify it.
Once the silver has been purified, it will be set in molds. It can then be processed in pretty much the same way as silver is normally processed. This means that it will often be sold to jewelers, the medical industry, or computer component manufacturers.
Silver is infinitely recyclable, so it can be put through this process several times.
Where Do You Take X-Ray Film To Be Recycled?
This is where you will probably run into issues. Finding a place that will actually accept the x-ray film can be quite a challenge.
If you work in a hospital, then you will probably have a company that the hospital works with already. So, you won’t actually have to worry about recycling it yourself.
Due to the legal ramifications, no hospital in the United States sends their x-ray films out in the trash, so you know that it is going to be recycled properly.
If you are not working in a hospital, you will very quickly find that your average recycling center will not take the x-ray film off of your hands. There are a couple of reasons for this.
First and foremost, they will not have the equipment required to extract the silver from the x-ray film. It is a delicate process that involves some pretty toxic materials floating about. It is unlikely that they will ever get the equipment too. This is because they would never have to recycle enough x-ray films to justify the price.
Secondly, the recycling centers are not going to be too happy about handling medical records. This is because certain processes need to be in play to help protect those medical records. We can 100% guarantee that your local recycling center will not have those processes in place.
In most cases, you will actually need to send your old x-ray films by mail to a company that specializes in recycling them. Do not just send to any old company, though. Make sure that they are reputable in the business. You need to know that they are going to be handling medical records within the confines of the law.
This means that they will need to conform to HIPAA. If they do not say that they conform to HIPAA, then the medical records should not be going anywhere close to them. Under no circumstances should you be sending medical records outside of the United States.
How Do You Prepare An X-Ray Film For Recycling?
There isn’t much that you will need to do when you are preparing the x-ray film for recycling.
Your only real concern should be whether you can actually recycle the x-ray film. As you may well know, hospitals and other medical establishments will need to keep the x-rays for a certain period of time before they are disposed of. This can be upwards of a decade.
So, make sure that you have held the records long enough otherwise you will be breaking the law. If you are disposing of your own documents, then you won’t have to worry about this too much.
It is worth noting that if an x-ray film is over 50-years old, it can contain very flammable material. If you are sending x-ray films that are this old to companies that are recycling it, then make sure that you let them know you have old film. They may not accept it. You will also need to ensure that you package the film securely before sending it in.
Can You Put X-Ray Film In The Trash?
No. It is illegal to dispose of medical records in the standard trash. While there shouldn’t be that much of an issue if you are disposing of your own medical records, we still wouldn’t recommend it.
You have to remember that x-ray films are made from highly toxic materials. If these toxic materials get into a landfill, then they are going to be seriously damaging to the environment.
Even a small amount leaking into the water supply can be deadly to animals. You then have to worry about the chemicals in the soil, which can travel for miles around, impacting the land.
You can recycle an x-ray film. However, due to various pieces of legislation, it is not going to be an easy thing to do by any stretch of the imagination. Your local recycling center almost certainly will not deal with x-ray films.
More often than not, you will have to mail them off to a specialist company to recycle them for you. You should never be putting x-ray films in the standard trash. Not only is it illegal, but it will damage the environment.