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There are countless objects and products that we accumulate at home and that we really no longer need to keep. For this reason, many times when we decide to clean we take big bags and put everything we do not want, throwing it away. If we organize ourselves a little, we can get this waste to have a second life, help someone who may need it and that does not pollute the environment.

A clear case is X-rays, which although we cannot give them to anyone because they need them as such, they can have a second life and can be reused. If we simply prefer to throw them away because we don’t want to start doing crafts, we have to think about where to throw old X-rays that we no longer need. Next, in AgroCorrn we tell you why they should not be thrown in the normal garbage and where they should be taken so that they are processed without contaminating.

You may also be interested in: Where are old CDs thrown away
  1. Why X-rays Pollute the Environment
  2. Do X-rays kept at home pollute?
  3. Where can I throw away the old X-rays
  4. How Old X-Rays Are Recycled

Why X-rays Pollute the Environment

Although we see X-rays as a piece of plastic, they cannot be disposed of in the yellow container along with other plastics. The reason is that, although their composition does have a plastic base, they also contain heavy metals , such as silver, which is why they cannot be mixed and must be treated separately and appropriately to avoid contamination.

When they are disposed of in the normal garbage, usually in the gray dumpster or wastebaskets, they end up in garbage dumps or in open fields. Then, when they get wet or begin to decompose due to the action of climatic agents, the heavy metals that compose them come out of the plastic part that held them until that moment and contaminate the land, crops, waters, etc. This is dangerous because we can end up ingesting these heavy metals and, in addition, the farmland loses its fertility and good condition to be able to cultivate and the fish and plants of the rivers and other aquatic environments end up dying from poisoning.

Do X-rays kept at home pollute?

Many people wonder if the X-rays they keep at home, whether for current medical reasons or in case they are needed later as a medical history or follow-up of a health problem, also contaminate or if they only contaminate the environment.

The truth is that while the X-rays are well stored at home they do not contaminate , since they do not give off radioactivity as many believe, nor do they give off the heavy metals they contain if they are not very wet or left in the open.

Therefore, we should not be alarmed and get rid of all those that we keep in this format, since they can also still be useful for the medical monitoring of our health. In addition, luckily, nowadays patients are not given so many x-rays on plastic plates , but the hospital keeps them in digital format and if we need them, they are also given to us in digital format, either in a CD, a pendrive or USB memory or send them to us by email. So the future, thankfully, is digital radiography .

Where can I throw away the old X-rays

If you need to get rid of x-rays on plastic film that you no longer want to have at home, it is best to know well where to dispose of old x-rays so that they do not contaminate the environment. These are the options that exist, although not all are available in all countries.

Hospitals and clinics

In most hospitals and some medical clinics there is a special container to deposit the discarded X-rays. Later, when the container is full, it is emptied and they are all taken to a recycling plant specialized in treating these plastic plates with heavy metals. As we will see later, when treated, contamination is avoided and a good part of these X-rays ends up being recycled.


In many pharmacies you can also find these containers, they are usually red containers or that specifically indicate that they are to dispose of X-rays. In this case, the operation is exactly the same as in hospitals.

X-ray collection centers

In some countries, especially in areas near hospitals or near X-ray recycling plants, there are specific collection points or centers for these materials. Again, as the containers are filled, they are transferred to the nearest treatment plants for recycling in a way that does not harm the environment.

Clean or green spots

Finally, another option to recycle X-rays that already exists in many countries is to deposit them in a green or clean point. These are points that have several special containers and specialized personnel to help citizens to treat the different waste that cannot be thrown in the normal recycling containers (brown, blue, yellow and green). As with the rest of discarded materials, when the container is complete they take it to the recycling plant indicated in each case.

Discover in this other AgroCorrn article what a clean point is and what it is for .

In addition, you can choose not to dispose of them, since at home you can make crafts to reuse old X-rays , such as making an original lampshade for a lamp.

How Old X-Rays Are Recycled

We have mentioned that the X-rays deposited in hospitals, pharmacies, collection centers and clean points are taken to a recycling plant specialized in dealing with these materials, which contain both plastic and heavy materials such as silver. But what is the recycling process for an X-ray ?

  1. Once the bags or containers full of X-rays arrive, their state of deterioration is evaluated at the recycling plant and they are cut into very small pieces or ground. In this way, the rest of the process is easier and, in addition, the personal data protection law is complied with, since they usually carry the written name of the patient.
  2. When you have the small pieces, they are placed inside large baskets that are part of tanks or washing and centrifuging machines, which contain various specific products to extract heavy materials.
  3. The baskets are passed from one bath to another, in the order necessary so that the products can act correctly to extract the metals from the plastic. This process can be said to be equivalent to washing the radiographs.
  4. The result is small plastic sheets. In other words, old X-rays are converted into PET plastics , which are recyclable and can be used to make plastic bottles, plastic containers or even textile fibers and make, for example, polar linings.
  5. The resulting silver solution, which has remained in the tanks or washing and spinning machines, is refined and marketed as silver, which is why it is reused.

If you want to read more articles similar to Where to throw old X-rays , we recommend that you enter our Recycling and waste management category .

Maria Anderson

Hello, I am a blogger specialized in environmental, health and scientific dissemination issues in general. The best way to define myself as a blogger is by reading my texts, so I encourage you to do so. Above all, if you are interested in staying up to date and reflecting on these issues, both on a practical and informative level.

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