Recycling Microfilm

Recycling microfilmA few months ago, a university library staff member emailed The Crowley Company to ask if we had information about the recycling or safe disposal of microform (microfilm, microfiche, aperture cards, film negatives, etc.) in his home state of Colorado.

As our headquarters are in Maryland (and because I’m in the marketing department and not hands-on with microfilm), the question led me on a quick walk around the office where I gathered some helpful information.


First stop was our IT department and its head, Greg Souders, who identified our local vendor, e-End. Although the vendor couldn’t help with Colorado, they did suggest a visit to the National Association for Information Destruction website as the best resource for a certified vendor in most areas.

A walk through our imaging services division led to a conversation with one of our tenured microfilm technicians, Phil Westcott, who also happens to own an organic recycling business, Key City Compost. Phil mentioned that any polyester-based film can be treated as a plastic and can pass to any recycling vendor – with the caveat that the spool itself would either need to be made of a recyclable material or removed from the film.


Rounding the corner on the way back to my office, I stopped at the desk of another Westcott, senior imaging specialist Dave Westcott, who noted that silver halide microfilm can be sent to a reclaiming service for silver extraction. If there is a large enough quantity, the reclaimer will pay for the scrap film; for smaller quantities, it might just be a donation. Search the internet for “silver halide reclaiming” to find vendors in your area.


Finally back at my desk, I did what most of us do when we don’t know the answer: googled it. Another win! The Association for Library Collections & Technical Services, a division of the American Library Association, has an informative chapter in their Managing Microforms in the Digital Age publication entitled: Donating, Discarding, and Recycling. It is filled with helpful information and multiple links to sites that will help you dig into the details.

As we celebrate Earth Day on Monday, I’m appreciative of both those who take the time to think about environmentally-friendly disposal and for the question that led me on this walk. As for my new friend in Colorado, he’s hanging on to his collection while looking for the best solution and planting piñon trees to make the world around him a better place.

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Cheri BakerCheri Baker, Crowley’s former Director of Communications, has retired but retains her love for writing and all things Crowley. With a career that spans newspaper, agency and corporate communications, her goal remains to dig behind the scenes and tell the story - whatever it may be. Find Cheri Baker on LinkedIn+

6 Responses

  1. Cut into 6″ sections, roll microfilm makes great bookmarks! If you want to fancy it up, punch a hole in one end and add a tassle. It’s especially cool if it’s 35mm film of books.

  2. Does this article on Recycling Microfilm apply also to Microfische?

    Thank you!

    Rune, Volunteer

    Heritage Quest Research Library (Genealogical)
    1007 Main Street
    Sumner WA 98390

    • Dear Rune:

      Our educated guess is “yes” as microfiche film is similar to microfilm in make-up. We’ll look into it and if we find out differently, we’ll let you know! Thanks for reading –

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