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Shredding is not the only option for X-ray film destruction

Steel refiners are the alternative — and they offer a financial return for recovered silver

X-ray film contains small amounts of silver, which can be recovered for financial return.
X-ray film contains small amounts of silver, which can be recovered for financial return.

Recently, refining and recycling companies in the U.S. have questioned the definition of X-ray destruction in accordance with the country’s 2010 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health bill (HITECH). A portion of the bill pertains to the end-of-life handling of X-ray film. Following the bill’s passing, one issue that has been raised was whether or not X-ray shredding, and the costs associated with it, was required. 

Arch Enterprises is a Missouri-based precious metal refiner that provides recovery services for scrap precious metal materials, including gold, platinum, palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium, and silver, which is present, in small amounts, in X-ray film.

According to Arch, healthcare organizations have recently reported that some companies were mistakenly claiming that shredding was necessary in order to fully destroy X-ray materials. As a result, hospital and healthcare organizations were spending extra money on this service when it turns out that it is not necessary.  According to the rules and regulations set forth by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and HITECH, X-ray film must be destroyed in a manner to where it cannot be reconstructed.  While one option for compliance is via recycling companies which shred X-ray film, precious metal refiners such as Arch who recover silver, are also a very viable alternative. The difference is, Arch does not shred film during the refining process, which would add cost. And by using a refining technique that recovers the small amounts of silver contained in X-ray film, they can provide a return on the metal to the healthcare companies who supply it. 

“It is our business to keep up-to-date on all laws concerning X-ray film destruction,” says Stacy Slater, national sales manager for Arch Enterprises. 

“Many healthcare facilities that have X-ray film are now more concerned about the specifics of the destruction regulations since the government issued the HITECH Act. The HITECH Act actually has very little to do with the X-ray film that precious metal refineries handle. It is more about how hospitals and clinics handle their digital patient information. As long as the X-ray film and patient information is destroyed in a manner to which it cannot be reconstructed, and you receive all the necessary documentation of destruction, you are in compliance with the law.”

“Companies like Arch Enterprises destroy X-ray film according to HIPAA regulations, and refine the silver from the film, without the added step of shredding the materials,” continues Slater. 

In the U.S., Arch says hospitals and clinics follow their own state and internal rules and regulations for X-ray storing and removal. However, all organizations now need to secure refiners that abide by the laws set by HIPAA and HITECH for X-ray refining and destruction. X-ray film needs to be handled in a timely manner and kept under lock-and-key. After it is sent to a refiner or other recycler, companies are then presented with a Certificate of Destruction confirming that the proper process was taken to destroy this sensitive information. Documentation of general liability and environmental insurance policies should also be provided. 

The X-ray film received by Arch goes through an incineration process which takes about five to seven days for all of the film to burn to an ash. After this process is over, the ash is then smelted in a rotary furnace and silver is poured. The only other by-product is PET. 

“Most likely, shredding companies will destroy the X-ray film either for free or for a fee and then have it refined in large amounts.” 

But, according to Arch, these shredding companies are most likely not going to provide a return on the silver. Arch Enterprises also says that they maintain an A+ rating by the U.S. Better Business Bureau and is affiliated with several professional associations including the National Association for Information Destruction (NAID) and the National Association of Dental Laboratories (NADL). The company provides X-ray refining services all over the U.S. and can help arrange freight for large shipments, including shipments from Canada. They also perform on-site purging of X-ray film. 

Arch says the company can serve areas in Canada, if they have truckload quantities of film, which is not uncommon when hospital facilities are cleaning out large storage rooms. In the United States the minimum amount of film Arch can return on is about 400 pounds. 

“Our experienced team takes every precaution necessary to ensure that X-ray materials are disposed in accordance to government regulations, and in an environmentally friendly manner,” says Slater.  She adds that; “Eight of the top 100 hospitals in the U.S. work directly with Arch Enterprises for X-ray film destruction and silver recovery, and enjoy the benefits of working directly with a refiner, while remaining compliant in their X-ray destruction processes.” 

Company info

One Arch Drive
Mexico, MO
US, 65265


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