How to Dispose of X-Ray Films? The Right Way!

Do you still have your X-ray films years after reading and treatment?

X-ray films are pretty dangerous to the environment, thanks to the silver halides used in making them.

So, if you must dispose of them, ensure you do it correctly.

The best way to dispose of X-ray films is through recycling.

This article explains this and other ways to dispose of these radiographic films.

Right Way to Dispose of X-Ray Films

X-ray films are dangerous to your health and the environment. Extended exposure to the silver contents of these films can cause argyria.

For this reason, it’s illegal to dump X-ray films in landfills. If found guilty of such an offense, you may get imprisoned or pay hefty fines.

The problem now is getting where you can take them for recycling. It can be challenging, especially if you don’t have any idea of where to begin.

Here are a few leads that will surely get you on the right track.

Going Back to the Hospital Where You Got Your X-ray Done

You don’t always have to take your X-ray film copy home after the examination. But if you did, the hospital is the best place to return them.

Go back to the hospital you got your X-ray done to ask if they offer recycling services. They should be able to dispose of them correctly.

In certain situations, you’ll be forced to take your X-ray films home.

Perhaps for medical or legal purposes, but whatever the reason, ensure proper storage.

That’s because you’ll be keeping them for long before you can finally dispose of them.

In most states, the authorities recommend retaining X-ray films for ten years before getting rid of them.

That is if you’re an adult. For minors, the recommendation is that you keep them until the minor turns 25 years.

After this timeframe elapses, you can now go back to the hospital to inquire about recycling. The hospital will take care of the recycling process themselves.

Contact Radiology Clinics

Any radiology clinic should be able to help while keeping your medical information private and confidential.

That’s true since privacy laws bind all hospitals and medical clinics.

So, you can rest assured that your medical information will not reach any third party.

Your Local Government Can Also Help

Most local governments have recycling centers for waste products as a way to sustain the environment. You can enquire from their offices or visit their websites to gather information.

If they do, they’ll give you a drop-off location to take your X-ray films. Remember only to take them there enclosed in an envelope.

It’s still a win-win situation if you find out they don’t have an X-ray recycling center.

That’s because your local government can gladly direct you to a recycling company they know.

Recycling your old X-ray films here gives you peace of mind. At least you’re sure the disposing of these materials happens per the law.

Why Not Sell Your X-ray Films?

Since X-ray films contain silver halides, any silver retrieving company can buy them from you.

This option is an excellent opportunity if you intend to make a few extra bucks.

These companies process used X-ray films to extract silver. They later convert them to pure silver, which is very valuable.

It doesn’t end there. After silver extraction, what these companies remain with is plastic. They can then again recycle plastic to make some other valuable materials.

This is truly such a profit-yielding activity. So, anytime you come across some old X-ray films, take them to such companies.

The X-ray film recycling business is pretty competitive, considering its benefits. If you must sell your radiographic films, shop around for the most reputable company.

Doing this will for sure get you the best deal.

What’s more, some companies that buy old X-ray films issue a certificate for environmental sustainability on top of the money.

In most cases, these companies will pick radiographic films from your house or hospital for processing.

If you have one or two copies, you can post them to the company’s address.

Shredding Them

Shredding is an effective method of disposing of X-ray films for hospitals and radiology clinics. There’s no need to keep X-ray films after their expiry dates have elapsed.

Remember, radiographic films contain sensitive medical information that must be protected by all means.

Most X-ray firms choose to shred these films instead of storing them to protect patient data.

They also do this to comply with the patients’ information privacy Act. Failure to do this means putting your business at the risk of closing its doors.

Shredding X-ray films has the following benefits:

  • The films will be completely destroyed
  • Third parties won’t access your private information
  • Complete peace of mind
  • Environment sustainability since you can recycle the shredded pieces
  • Reduced storage costs

Choose to Donate Your X-ray Films

Your old X-ray films can be of great help to schools and other learning institutions. Why not donate them if you don’t want to go the recycling way?

Students, primarily those studying human anatomy, depend on such materials for their studies. Other students can also use them for their art projects.

Identify such institutions or someone who can take them. Before donating them, ensure you remove all your personal information for safety purposes.

You can use a pair of scissors, in this case, to cut off any writing on the film. This applies to all radiographic films, even those that don’t belong to you.

Get Creative

Some people may not be willing to either donate or recycle their X-ray films. If you’re in the same scenario, then at least be creative.

There are many things you can do with X-ray films to test your art and craft abilities. From making lampshades to covering a votive candle, the list is indeed long.

While your kids can draw on them in crayons, other people use them to make stencils.

The point is, there’s just so much to do with the holographic and monochrome films you have at your disposal.

FAQs About Disposing of X-ray Films

Below are some frequently asked questions about disposing of X-ray films.

What is the best way to dispose of X-ray films?

The most effective and safest way to dispose of your X-ray films is by recycling. Thankfully, there are several recycling companies around that will take them to extract silver.

You can easily find them online if you search through the internet. Alternatively, your city council office can help direct you to one.

Ensure the recycling company is HIPAA-compliant before giving out the films.

Is X-ray film considered a hazardous waste?

Yes, X-ray films are hazardous wastes. They’re considered dangerous due to the materials they contain, silver and plastic.

These materials pose a significant threat to humans and the environment at large. Ingesting or exposure to high concentrations of silver halides can make you sick or kill you.

Silver halides will affect your skin and damage your lungs and kidney.

What can you do with your old X-ray scans?

Before taking them home, first, ask your doctor if they’re worth keeping.

You may need them for future medical references. That’s better than going through the same process of getting another X-ray scan.

If your doctor advises you to retain these films, then you can store them at home. They should be safe, so leave them in their envelopes and keep them in a cabinet.

How do you dispose of X-ray developers and fixers?

You can dump a used X-ray developer in a litter bin. Alternatively, you can drain it all in your toilet. An X-ray developer is considered safe once it’s used.

That said, if you have an unused X-ray developer, ensure you safely dispose of it. Please put it in a labeled container, then send it to the manufacturer.

Most manufacturers make X-ray developers using phenidone and hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is slightly toxic hence a hazardous waste.

On the other hand, an X-ray filter is harmful to your health since it contains too much silver. Secure it in a Chemical Recovery Cartridge and remember to label it for easy identification.

How long should facilities keep mammography X-ray films?

Facilities must keep such films safely on their premises at least five years before disposing of them.

These old reports help track a patient’s recovery process to determine their stability.


Well, now you know the various ways to dispose of your old x-ray films. Before choosing a method, remember that X-ray films are considered hazardous waste.

That means that trashing them on the landfills can land you into trouble with authorities. You sure don’t want to pay hefty fines or end up in jail for something you can easily avoid.

Recycling is the best option to dispose of radiographic films. But as you can see, these films can be helpful in other ways.

You can donate them to learning institutions or use them to make art. Whatever method you pick, ensure you remove personal information from your X-ray films.

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