7. Donating, Discarding, and Recycling

Chapter 7 of Managing Microforms in the Digital Age

Currently, an increasing number of institutions are opting to discard microform collections and replace them with digital counterparts. After collection evaluation, if an institution finds itself in a position where discarding of microform is inevitable, staff may need to do a little extra research. To date, there is no one centralized method of donation, disposal, and discarding of film. Economic feasibility of recycling hinges in great measure on shipping costs between the source and industry needs. Cursory research suggests that every library has a unique means of handling these formats. Methods often depend on the library's geographic location and staff’s creative thinking and willingness to research and find solutions that will work best for them.


Donating weeded microfilm can be a great way to strengthen another library’s collection. A simple way to do this is to post the offer to appropriate regional websites and discussion lists. Libraries often only charge the cost of postage for mailing the film. One particularly creative donation solution suggested contacting local artists or art departments where the medium was used to create unique works of art.

Discard Safely

There are many safe ways to discard and dispose of microfilm in an environmentally friendly manner. There are countless county, municipal council and private waste recycling companies, as well as many local community initiatives. These normally include doorstep collections of household recyclable waste that are limited to types of material that can actually be recycled in their regions; local collection points (for example, a local shopping area, supermarket, or community area bins); and local recycling centers that are generally based at or nearby landfill sites. Today, one can easily do an online search to help identify local recycling options.

Larger metropolitan areas tend to have a wider range of recycling collections and opportunities. This is due to a greater number of diverse industries that may have a real need to incorporate and successfully re-use specific recyclable material into their production process. The proximity to source material industry may need provides the incentives necessary to use recyclable material, especially if they can keep the transporting costs down.

Some librarians and archivists reported having no trouble taking their old film to a local recycling center but had to call in advance to make sure it would be accepted. Others report using a service such as Safety-Kleen®: www.safety-kleen.com. This company works with businesses to make environmentally friendly options easy and will even pay you for your film.

Another option includes contacting the local medical center in your area and asking how they dispose of x-ray films. Though this film medium is being replaced by digital x-rays, they may be able to guide you to their recycling sources or add yours to their collections.


The North American Plastic Recycling Network is another source for recycling your microforms. Recycling facilities are listed by state. www.recyclingplasticwaste.com/recyclers/usa and click under: USA Polyester Recycling Directory. The polyester film does not contain any hazardous material and can be recycled resulting in an environmentally friendly product.

Another initiative taking place is with Imaging Office Systems (IOS) and Eastman Kodak Co. They are expanding the scope of IOS’s microfilm preservation program to collecting recyclable microfilm and microfilm storage and packaging materials from qualified customers. It is called the Return Program and provides a way to prevent these items from ending up in a landfill (www.aceperipherals.com). If all else fails, the US Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov/ offers solutions for proper disposal of film in each geographic region across the nation. 

As environmental stewardship becomes the norm on campuses across the country, an increasing number of universities have instituted detailed recycling policies, guidelines and procedures and have made them available on their websites. Many university websites specify a rubric that includes how microforms and film may be recycled. Others may include how silver and film recovery should be handled in compliance with EPA and state regulations. These guidelines are normally associated with university medical centers that ensure safe silver-nitrate recycling associated with x-ray and photo-laboratory material.

After some research, any library can be successful in identifying a facility that recycles microfiche and microfilms, helping to ensure that film will no longer find its way into the trash and will be disposed of in a proper manner.

Polyester film contains no hazardous material and can be recycled resulting in an environmentally friendly product. Sources for recycling polyester-based microforms are listed at www.recyclingplasticwaste.com/recyclers/usa/polyester/ and at Kodak's Recycling Services, www.sdbmagazine.com/Article.aspx?article_id=99573. Some recycling facilities will accept your waste. Check with your local recycling facility first to see if you can add your polyester-based material to the other recycled plastics that your institution disposes regularly.

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