How to Recycle Used Polaroid Film Cartridges

3 min read by
Taking Polaroid film pack apart: 1) paper packaging, 2) metalized polypropylene film packaging wrap, 3) cardboard dark slide, 4) empty film cartridge, 4a) metal sprint, 4b) plastic frame, 4c) lithium-ion battery.

Polaroid film is made of hundreds of components. So as a whole, it does not belong in a blue bin. But thankfully, used Polaroid film packs are easy to take apart and recycle (depending on your local facilities).

This short guide explains how.

Recycle the film packaging ♻.

Having opened your fresh Polaroid film (here, I’m using Polaroid SX-70 pack as an example), you will already have some materials to recycle. The paper packaging — #1 in the photo above — and the dark slide your camera spits out once you load the film — #3. These bits may be the easiest to find the right bin for: mixed paper.

The silver plastic wrap, #2, metalized polypropylene film packaging, is the least likely thing to be recyclable. This is because it’s a mix of various plastic layers and aluminum — quite tricky to separate.

Recycle the spent film cartridge materials ♻.

Once you’ve finished shooting your film, it’s time to recycle what remains.

Polaroid 600 and SX-70 film come with lithium-ion batteries, which should be recycled or disposed of safely at your local facility. For example, in Vancouver (Canada), you can drop them off at London Drugs. A quick search should reveal a similar place that accepts batteries in your area.

I typically collect depleted batteries for a few months before dropping them off — Polaroid and otherwise. This helps me save a few trips. Doing this is also a good way to see how many batteries I use and an encouragement to invest in rechargeables whenever possible.

To get the Polaroid battery out of the depleted film pack, push on the plastic bit that has the tab sticking to it to dislodge. You can see it dislodged in the photo above, #4b. Now you can slide the battery, #4c, and the metal spring, #4a, out of the plastic frame.

⚠️ Be careful! The plastic and the metal components can have sharp edges.

Of course, the metal spring and the plastic frame can be recycled as well.

I keep a pack of depeleted batteries that I take to my local disposal site once it fills up sufficiently.

Keep a test pack for thrift shopping.

Alternatively, you can save your depleted film pack if you plan to thrift for a Polaroid camera. If you insert the dark slide back in, you can test a questionable Polaroid — both the 600 and the SX-70 varieties — by inserting it and seeing if the motors will work.

Keep a spare battery as a replacement.

You may also choose to keep your Polaroid battery as a spare, should you find that a vintage film pack you got has its depleted. Note, however, that it will be tricky to replace — you’ll need to do this in complete darkness. Also, don’t keep used batteries for longer than a month or two! Nobody likes spilled battery acid in their house.

By the way: Please consider making your Polaroid film purchase using this link so that this website may get a small percentage of that sale — at no extra charge for you — thanks!