How To Safely Handle Xray Film Recycling

Sep 27, 2012 by

Those old X-rays stored in the closet or file boxes aren’t needed any more, but they can be difficult to dispose of for a couple of reasons. First, The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (or HIPAA) classifies X-ray film as private documents, since it contains patient information. Second, the film needs to be disposed of in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. Firms specializing in xray film recycling turn what could be a painful process into an easy one.

How X-ray Recycling Works

Send your X-ray film for recycling by loading the film, and any envelopes or containers the film is stored in, into a box and mailing it to an X-ray film recycler. Companies that provide X-ray record recycling first separate out the X-rays from other accompanying documents, such as paper envelopes. To protect the patient’s privacy, these accompanying documents are shredded, then recycled.

Next, the X-ray film is fed into a grinder and dived into smaller pieces, which renders the film unreadable. No one can put those small pieces back together, to view the X-ray. The diced X-ray film is then washed with a special chemical that actually recovers the silver from the X-ray. The X-ray film is now separated into silver and plastic, and the plastic components are sent to recycling. The silver is further extracted, purified, and finally sent to a silver vendor.

Safe Handing of X-ray Film

When preparing for xray film recycling, keep the following considerations in mind:

  1. Carefully place all of the X-ray films and other documents into a large box for transport. Do not separate out any of the materials that go with the X-rays, since these may also need to be disposed of according to HIPAA regulations. Hold X-ray films by the edges to limit your exposure to the chemicals and metals on the film. If you wish, you may opt to wear latex gloves while handling the X-ray film.
  2. Ensure that the X-ray recycler you choose is licensed and insured, and that they will indeed dispose of the film in accordance with HIPAA and EPA regulations. A reputable company will display this information on their website.
  3. Weigh the box of X-rays before you sign them over to the recycler. All X-ray recycling payments for recovered silver are based on the weight of the film. While an accountable recycler will transmit weight information to you during the process, having your own confirmation of the weight can be satisfying.
  4. Wash your hands when you finish handling the X-ray film. The film does contain silver halide.
  5. Make sure the X-ray recycler will provide you with a certificate acknowledging that you disposed of medical records in the proper manner. This is sometimes called a “Certificate of Destruction.”


When handled this way, X-ray film recycling does not have to be painful! Get those old medical records out of your office or storage room to make room for newer X-rays and receive payment for the silver collected.

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