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Kodak's Single Use Camera

The single use camera, first introduced in 1987, was an instant hit with customers providing the first 'disposable' camera that didn't matter if it got lost or was ruined.

Due to pressure from environmental groups, Kodak set about redesigning the camera to facilitate the recycling and reuse of its parts.  The camera is now designed to be collected and disassembled and the resulting parts and materials reused or recycled.
The Kodak process:

Kodak cameras are collected at photo development booths and returned to 1 of 3 collection facilities.

  • all packaging, front, back covers and any batteries are removed
  • plastic is passed through a metal detector to check for traces of metal, then shipped to be reground into flake and then reused in cameras or other products.
  • discarded packaging is sent to paper recycling centre.
  • batteries are removed and tested. If ok they are used:
    • internally for employees pagers
    • donated to organisations as 'gifts-in-kind'
    • sold as recycled batteries
  • camera frame, metering system and flash circuit board are re-used after rigorous testing
  • cameras are cleaned in an ionised-air vacuum system then visually inspected on a manual assembly line
  • old viewfinders and lenses are replaced with new ones – for quality purposes
  • many small parts are reused e.g. thumb wheels (for advancing film) and counter wheels (for counting exposures left)
  • subassemblies go to 1 of Kodak’s 3 single use manufacturing plants for assembly as a new product, where fresh film, new battery and outer packaging (35% recycled post-consumer waste), additional packaging are added.


Kodak (2001) A Tale of Environmental Stewardship: the Single-Use Camera,

Kodak Environmental Services (2002) Recycling One-Time-Use Cameras,

Lewis, H., et al.(2001) 'Design + environment, a global guide to designing greener goods', Greenleaf publishing.

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