To get rid of used developer, it has to be stored until it can be taken for hazardous waste disposal. Before I learned all this, I was used to tossing my bucket of chemicals into the soil in my backyard. It was pretty close to a storm drain, too. Not all that cool. It would be great to have a developing solution that could be thrown out the window, but even Caffenol won't get us that far (ugh, silver!). Using it as an alternative developer, however, will reduce the nastiness and eye-burning odor a bit. Even better, it's cheap! You don't often see greener options that are cheaper than their nasty counterparts.
Caffenol is a developer consisting of only washing soda (which is used commonly as a laundry detergent), coffee crystals (like Instant Folgers), and sometimes vitamin C (for making Caffenol-C). It replaces the commercial developing chemical in developing black and white film. It was introduced seventeen years ago by Dr. Scott Williams and his class at the Rochester Institute of Technology when he experimented with his class to find a household developer. After reading a bit about Caffenol, I followed the instructions on the Photojojo blog (link below), so the steps here are based off of their methods and tips from some helpful photographers at the printing lab.
Note: Every photograph in this article, with the exception of three stock images, is shot in black-and-white and developed with Caffenol-C.
Helpful links and sources:
Step 1: Collecting and Prepping Supplies
I managed to get all of my supplies from the local hardware store, photography lab, and under my sink. It's not too hard.
From the photo store:
Film, if you don't already have a roll that you want to develop
A daylight developing tank - nothing specific, just don't forget a matching spool!
Changing bag or a dark room
Fixer - I use Kodak Professional
Optional: Brown chemical storage jug (or two)
From the hardware store:
Washing Soda - I use Arm & Hammer (not baking soda)
A few measuring cylinders - 16 oz. each
Large glass cups, unless you already have some that you're willing to clean well
You might already have all of these things. They're pretty common, you know.
From under the sink:
Vitamin C powder - You might need to get this at a drugstore or online.
Instant coffee crystals - Well, it's above the sink, but hey.
An eency bit of dishwashing liquid soap
Bottle opener and scissors
A few gallons of water - Get it from the hose, nearby pond, doesn't need to be fancy.
A clothespin or binder clip
Once you're finished with the process, you'll be left with a strip of negatives that will need to be cut and sent to a photo lab for printing, unless you have a negative scanner or you're able to print them yourself.
Fill two glasses with 6 oz. of water each. Mix 5 teaspoons of instant coffee crystals and between 3/4 and 1 whole teaspoon of vitamin C (see step five for more detail) into the first glass. Mix 3-1/2 teaspoons of washing soda into the second glass. Don't leave too many lumps! When everything's mixed, stir the two solutions together in a single glass. Ta-da! It's Caffenol-C!
Follow the instructions on the bag your fixing chemical came in to make a batch. I decided to mix my whole bag at once and keep it in a brown chemical jug under the counter. It should last for a while, and you can reuse fixer a few times.
Fill another clean glass with water and stir in a few drops of dishwashing liquid. It doesn't need to be specific, it'll just be used to wash the fixer and other leftovers off of your film. Don't get too many bubbles, though, since it can be a pain to pull your film out of a bucket of foam.