7 Tips for Recycling Printed Photos

Some great options for recycling those photos cluttering up your attic and closets.

So let's say this summer one of your projects was to create a family album, do a scrapbook for your child's collection, or clean out the attic in which you found an old box of family pictures.


Chances are in any one of those examples you most likely came across duplicates, fuzzy out-of-focus shots, or the I-have-no-idea-who-is-in-this-photo pictures. So now what do you do with these duds? Certainly, don't let them continue cluttering up your closets!


Here are some options for recycling your printed photos:


1. Check with your curbside recycling company to see if they'll take them. There is no silver or developing chemicals on printed images so some local companies will accept them in their bins. 


2. Change the paper you use to print out your photos to a more eco-friendly option. Hewlett-Packard has a type of photo paper that is recyclable. The paper is quick-drying and has great results on inkjet printers. 


3. If you have some negatives and film mixed in with those photos, those can be recycled too. Green Disk is one such recycling company namely for black and white film and negatives. Or Kodak has two recycling programs you can check out. 


4. Preserve history with your pictures. Your local historical society might like pictures that depict landmarks from years past or how the town has changed over the years. Veterans groups may be able to take pictures of those who served in wars. 


5. Donate them. If the photos are not of a personal or sensitive nature, look into giving them to elementary schools or day care centers for craft projects. Or even the local senior center or library. 


6. Re-gift them. Who doesn't love receiving an unexpected happy-gram? Send any duplicates to friends or family. Even if it's years later they'll probably get a kick out of strolling down memory lane. Or you can get clever and poke holes in the ears of people in the pictures to gift earrings to someone. Another idea is to shred them all to use as packing material to ship presents. 


7. Do some craft projects. Pinterest is a great resource for ideas. I've seen projects for coasters, lampshades, candleholders, and jewelry all using old photographs. The options abound!


There's a theory that most families hold onto pictures for about three generations or until the current generation no longer recognizes the old-timers. I believe this to be true.


Then again sometimes old family photos end up in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. I loved this NPR story about a man who rescued 50,000 photographs from the trash and turned them into a beautiful exhibit depicting little snippets of Americana. 


The general guideline is to print one out of every 10 digital images so we have a little something to pass down to future generations.


Do you have any creative ways that you recycle old photographs?

How many photos do typically print out?