How can I reuse or recycle old photos?

photos250.jpgWe’ve had an email from Sue Taylor:

We’ve just moved to a much smaller retirement flat and we have hundreds of old holiday snaps and photos that none of the family want… You know the sort of thing, me in the pool, him in the pool, me on beach, him on beach etc etc yawn yawn…

Can they be recycled and if so who do I send them to?

We’ve got similar piles of photos – I’m quite the snapper, but not a very good one, and so have heaps and heaps of utterly blurred shots of cats quickly moving out of shot or ones of a sheep/band on a mountain/stage about two nautical miles away from me from the days before we went digital.

So any suggestions? I realise there are loads of potential craft projects for favourite photos but what about those ones that aren’t particularly favourites?

(Photo of photos by twasa)

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33 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle old photos?”


  1. bbm says:

    The craft project that uses them is décolage. It’s lots of fun, and you can make your own paper maché objects to apply the décolage to.

  2. Nigello says:

    A school might like them for art projects, though there might well be legal considerations re identification to think aboit.

  3. trish says:

    I think you can recycle them. Contact a photography studio, they’ll know.

    You might ebay them. I did a project with black and whites, half of the people in them I don’t know who they are, but I liked the oldness of them.

    I like the decolage idea, you could also buy a glass top for your coffee table and arrange them beneath it. you can change the look whenever the mood strikes you.

    make an album for the younger kids in your family, grandkids love the idea of having their own album with grandma and grandpa, but seldom get to because the adults don’t what the pics ruined.

  4. lesley says:

    ANy old black and white/sepia ones ill take for my college project that im doing on creatively recycling

    heres my email, drop me a line and ill send you my address

    lesley258@hotmail.com

    ill try my best to post/ send photos of what i did with them

    i recently recovered an old discarded lampshade i found at a carboot and covered it in pages from a 1960 french phrase book i found at the same car boot just left in the field :)

  5. Michael says:

    If you have a local craft store that holds scrap-booking classes – I bet they’ll take them.

  6. Phil says:

    I use ‘bad’ photos as notelets, as the most awful are almost abstract :)

    I would be interested in the recyclability of photo paper though, as I have a lot of prints to sort through in the near future. I’m pretty sure they won’t go in the paper recycling – anyone know whether they will go in a council green bin for composting?

    • cali says:

      No unfortunately, they can’t be recycled (or rather shouldn’t be recycled) in either bin. Same reason you’re not suppose to throw-out batteries/light bulbs, or flush meds down the toilet. The ink used in photo paper contains several toxic chemicals (mercury is one of them) that are beyond bad for the environment. I just had this same problem not too long ago. A bunch of pics of people I use to know but no longer do and they just take up space. I would try to find somewhere that accepts them like someone else mentioned a local craft store might take them for classes and projects… or local photography schools or JC’s (Junior colleges) for their photography classes. A friend of mine sells Creative memories (a scrapbook pyramid company) and gave them to her to use in demonstrations for hosted parties and such. :)

  7. Hello Sue
    Whatever you do don’t dispose of them all. Your grandchildren and their children one day will want to know about you and your parents and grandparents. Make an album and tell your story in captions and notes telling about who the subjects are in each photo.
    Maybe none of your family are that bothered right now but in time to come they will want to know the history of their families. Don’t let your history get away from them.

  8. Hello Sue

    Please don’t dispose of all of your old photos. Make an album of your best and your oldest photos with narrative and notes and dates.

    Your grandchildren and their children one day will want to know about you, your parents and your grandparents. It’s their history. Maybe they don’t want to know about them right now but they will and you are the only one who can tell them.

    Don’t let your history get away from them.

  9. Adele says:

    One photographer I knew used his rejects as postcards– using a permanant marker to write on them– & appropriate postage— they arrived just fine.

    Also, what about giving them to elementary school teachers to use for collage projects?

  10. Adele says:

    P.S. Don’t forget your local Historical Society for old photos relevant to more than just your family!

  11. attilathehen says:

    I made a special album of our wedding with all the duff shots. e.g. Picture of us smiling with my mum in the background looking glum: Caption said “Poor man, he just doesn’t know what he’s letting himself in for!” I had a lot of fun doing this and we like it more than our official one.

  12. cassie says:

    get a recycleing bin here so i can have it for my damn since fair

  13. Gulia says:

    You can sell them for few dollars to an antique shop.

  14. Gulia says:

    Many of this blurry photographs can be fixed in Photoshop to be sharp, have proper contrast and color, or in other programs.
    They can be then reprinted. They also can be saved on a computer, even as is. They can be used for web sites, designing of the cards, collages, pictures on fabric. The list is endless.
    If some pictures are completely odd, like total smudges, give them to children to draw on, or glue a printed copy of a good picture on top, leaving wide border as it ts, and you’ll have a great card or a picture to exhibit on a table.

  15. Maren says:

    I’ve tried a few forums like this, but no one seems to know: can I just put them in the recycling bin or not? I don’t want to keep them and don’t want to make an art project. I want them to go away! :) (I’m moving soon, so I’ve emptied out my old photo boxes and scanned them to cut down on clutter. Now my 27 years of photos all fit on a jump drive, and I much prefer it!)

  16. penny says:

    This is from the Kodak website:-

    Waste photographic paper is not generally recoverable. Most papers are coated with a very thin layer of polythene to control water absorption and speed drying, and should not therefore be mixed with other waste paper destined for conventional paper recovery.
    Waste photographic paper should be disposed of by incineration with energy recovery. If suitable incineration facilities are unavailable; the waste may be disposed of to landfill without risk of adverse environmental effects.

  17. Larry says:

    Some years back I remember that the places that took film to be developed were taking back all those old photos esp thos bad shots. If I remember correctly there was supposedly trace amounts of silver used in the processing of the paper and they were recovering the silver

  18. Teresa says:

    Thanks to Penny for your post. I found it most helpful.

  19. Paul says:

    Thanks to Penny for the Kodak info.
    I’ve scanned all my photos, and still have the negatives, but the old albums are a pain to store so I wanted to get rid of them in the most environmentally sound way – this meant taking all the photo’s out of the albums but that was a lot quicker than the scanning…

  20. Chris says:

    As Penny says above, photographic prints can’t be recycled like normal paper as the polythene and chemicals clog up the recycling process.

    They are useless though. I scanned all our old photos years ago so that they would never be lost to future generations. Now the whole family browse through them from time to time and regularly pull out some old gem and use it for something. The electronic versions are much more useful than the paper versions.

    Now I’m looking to dispose of the 12,000 or so of prints that are just taking up space in the attic and will never be used for anything. At my local dumps the only option will be landfill. I like the idea of incineration with energy recovery, but where can I find such a facility?

  21. Amy says:

    If anybody has any photographs, slides or negatives they would like to recycle, I would love to turn them into art projects and use them as teaching resources for photography students of mine, email me at : amii.roarr@gmail.com
    Thanks

    • Barbara says:

      I have several large boxes of old (pre 1940s) photos and postcards to donate to art students. Contact me if interested. Barbara

  22. KAREN says:

    YOU CAN RECYCLE OLD PHOTOS INTO PLACEMATS,JUST BUY STICKY CONTAC PAPER LAY THE PHOTOS ONTO CONTAC OVERLAPPING THEM A BIT THEN IF YOU LIKE THE WAY IT LOOKS COVER THEM WJTH CLEAR CONTAC & CUT AROUND IT.DONE!I RECYCLE CARDS THAT PEOPLE SAVE FOR ME FROM DIFFERENT OCCASIONS OVER THE YEAR & CUT AROUND THE SCENE WITH A PLASTIC CUP UPSIDE DOWN THEN PUT THEM IN ORDER AS TO WANT YOUR PLACEMAT TO LOOK LIKE,SUCH AS ALL SNOW SCENES, CHILDREN, ANIMALS, LIGHT HOUSES, FLOWERS ,ETC, BUT I ALSO START WITH A PATTERN THAT IS OVAL BUT YOU CAN DO A SQUARE ONE THEN AFTER YOU GET THEM IN ORDER AS TO WHAT YOU WANT YOUR PLACEMAT TO LOOK LIKE PLACE THEM ON CONTAC THAT HAS A DESIGN ON BACK THEN CLEAR ON TOP CUT AROUND IT. DONE!THE GARDEN CLUB HERE IN MCKEESPORT PA.HAS BEEN DOING THIS FOR YEARS & WE SELL THEM AT XMAS FOR A FUND RAISER. GOOD LUCK!!

  23. Janet says:

    Back in those years when I was trying to master 35mm photography I would take several pictures of the same thing using different settings. I used a mail order developing company and doubles were so cheap that I always got them. Jump ahead 20+ years and I’ve got boxes and albums full of pictures I have no interest in keeping.

    I’m preparing to donate the majority of them to the local Boys & Girls club to use in art projects. There is one that I am going to teach them that involves cutting a circle and then marking a triangle that touches the edges. The lines of the triangle are scored and then folded up. This is repeated several times with the tabs being glued together until you have a ball shape. Use the spring type paper clips to hold the tabs together while the glue sets. Add a string and you have an ornament to hang anywhere.

    In discussing this with the director I suggested that they could then use the balls to make mobiles.

    This group is moving into a former elementary school building and these can hang from a ceiling to brighten up the room.

    I’m also thinking of using the pictures in mosaics. The kids can cut them into small shapes (triangles and squares), sort the colors and then let their imaginations run wild.

    Think of almost any paper craft (except maybe origami) and use pictures instead.

    On the same idea as the contact paper placemat, how about using a laminating machine to seal them up? They’ll last even longer that way and you won’t have the air bubble problem.

    Enjoy!
    Janet

  24. John says:

    Hello All Photo Recyclers,
    I would be interested to hear from you if you wish to dispose of any sort of old photographs.
    I would of course pay postage costs if you are within the U.K.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Contact me at recyjohn@greenmail.net

    Thanks
    John

  25. John says:

    Hello All Photo Recyclers,

    I would be interested to hear from you if you wish to dispose of any sort of old photographs or not so old photographs. I would of course pay postage costs if you are within the U.K.

    I look forward to hearing from you.

    Contact me at recyjohn@greenmail.net
    Thanks
    John



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