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The Green Life: What's the Best Way to Recycle Old Cameras?

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October 19, 2012

What's the Best Way to Recycle Old Cameras?

Mr. Green is Bob SchildgenHey Mr. Green,

Digital photography has condemned a lot of beautiful film-based equipment to an uncertain fate. It is distressing to think that my two sophisticated SLRs and their associated lenses and paraphernalia could end up in a landfill. Is there any good alternative for this stuff?

—Gary, in Seattle

How sad indeed to see such gorgeous old photo equipment land in a dump with rotten garbage smearing their multiple lenses and oozing into their delicate inner chambers. It's a tragedy for all of us who loved to watch photographers wield their cameras, and later to enjoy the results of their alchemical magic in the haunting light of those mysterious darkrooms.

But take heart. There are a number of possibilities for recycling old film cameras. There are retro photographers who venerate the old equipment, just as there remain arty printers who still set type by hand and music lovers infatuated with old-fashion vinyl records. And there are also recyclers. Here are some suggestions to help find a respectable home for your cameras in their old age:

1. Ask graphics and art departments at local high schools, colleges, or universities if they’re interested in your equipment for their projects. Some of them start training in photography by having students use film equipment. If you donate equipment to such places, you may be able to take a tax deduction for a charitable contribution.

2. Inquire with local camera clubs.

3. See if any local thrift store is interested. Collectors may be cruising these venues.

4. Contact camera stores to find out if they have a need for the old photo paraphernalia, whether for collectors or use as replacement parts.

5. Offer the equipment on e-Bay or other online sales companies.

There are also companies that recycle old cameras. Adorama is a large supplier that buys good-quality film cameras.  Kodak invites cameras,  as does UsedCameraBuyer.

You can also convert photo equipment into something else if you’re halfway handy: lamp stands, jewelry boxes, or even an artwork composed of different cameras and other equipment. And finally, there’s the growing movement of “creative reuse” groups that contrive sometimes ingenious ways to reuse items that once simply got junked. See if you can find one of them in your area just by searching for “creative reuse" or checking the Directory of Creative Reuse Centers in the United States and Around the World.

Got a question? Ask Mr. Green!


--illustration by Little Friends of Printmaking


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