Can You Recycle Smoke Detectors?

You must have smoke detectors in your house. They Can save your life in the event of a fire.

A smoke detector seems like something that should be simple to remove. But It turns out to be trickier than you may expect.

Radiation is present in many smoke detectors in very modest amounts. Because of this, it is essential to get rid of them the right way (recycle) rather than throwing them away, so yes, you can recycle smoke detectors.  

Why You Need to Recycle Your Smoke Detectors

1. It Contains Hazardous Radioactive Materials

Most likely, your home has an ionization chamber smoke detector. That indicates that you have radioactive material that needs to be safely disposed of.

Even while there isn’t much radioactive metal in your smoke detector, it might soon become an issue if everyone threw their smoke detectors in the trash. And it would continue to be an issue for quite some time.

Most smoke detectors contain the isotope americium 241, which has a half-life of 458 years. There are other recyclable materials inside your smoke detector.

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2. Detector’s Plastic Casing Takes Eternity to Biodegrade

Most likely, the casing is made of plastic, which won’t break down with time.

3. Smoke Detectors Contain Recyclable Metals

Circuit boards and other parts of smoke detectors are composed of recycled gold, which is also used in other components. Your smoke detector backup battery contains recyclable metals that can be used to make other products.

Ensure a certified recycler receives your used smoke detector.

This Is How You Recycle Smoke Detectors

Quick Summary:

Radioactive element: Ionization alarms contain a radioactive element that is carefully removed before being sent for ultimate disposal at a facility authorized to handle radioactive waste.

Plastic: Separated plastic components are broken up into smaller bits.

Metal: They are then employed in the creation of new goods.

Radioactive Smoke Detector: Return to The Manufacturer

Returning an ionization chamber/radioactive smoke detector to the manufacturer for recycling is the best option.

Not all manufacturers will accept returns for their goods. But most larger corporations will.

Where to submit your smoke detector for recycling is listed on the U.S. Postal Service website. The list also specifies any additional requirements, such as whether you should enclose a recycling fee or make a call before mailing your smoke detector.

Be aware that many businesses request that you label the box “For Recycling” or put a message stating as much on the inside. No matter what you do, avoid damaging the smoke detector in any way when trying to recycle it.

As long as it is contained, the americium 241 inside the smoke detector is shielded by a layer of metal and cannot hurt you. However, if it escapes, it might harm you and your loved ones.

Photoelectric Smoke Detectors: Recycle the Battery – Dispose of Other Parts

You might not be able to recycle the majority of a photoelectric smoke detector. However, the smoke detector’s battery can undoubtedly be recycled.

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Unless the maker of the device or your municipality has a take-back program, prepare to throw the remaining smoke detector in the garbage.

The local waste management company may also offer a location where smoke detectors can be recycled; however, they may not be much of a help. Smoke detectors cannot be handled by even the majority of domestic hazardous waste facilities.

Carbon Monoxide Detector Recycling

When a significant amount of carbon monoxide enters your home, carbon monoxide detectors will beep.

Cars and fuel-burning heaters, such as wood stoves and fireplaces, are the likely sources of carbon monoxide. A carbon monoxide detector is especially important if you frequently burn wood or another form of fuel in your house.

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning Prevention

The best strategy to protect children from carbon monoxide poisoning is to acquire a carbon monoxide detector. Children are more vulnerable to illness.

You can treat carbon monoxide detectors the same way you would photoelectric smoke detectors because they don’t contain radioactive material.

Carbon Monoxide Detector – Recycling Procedure

Step 1: Find out if the manufacturer has a take-back program by contacting them.

Step 2: If they don’t, take the carbon monoxide detector batteries out and recycle them.

Step 3: Discard the remaining parts of the gadget.

What to Do I You’re Unable to Return Smoke Detector to The Manufacturer

Contact your neighborhood transfer station to learn about additional choices if you are unable to return your smoke detector that contains Americium-241 to the manufacturer.

Smoke detectors are not regarded as hazardous trash, so it is acceptable to dump them in a landfill.

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Smoke detectors containing Americium-241 should not; however, be put in the garbage if your town’s waste is being burned since they will trigger radiation detection alarms at the incineration facility. And the load will be refused.

TIP:

If you want to prevent inconveniences regarding smoke detector disposal in the future, and to practice ecologically responsible consumption, purchase a smoke detector from a manufacturer that offers a simple end-of-life recycling option.

Some Background Information on Smoke Detectors

When smoke is detected in your house, smoke detectors sound an alarm to alert you. Often, food that becomes too crispy in the oven or on the stovetop releases smoke.

However, the primary function of smoke detectors is to warn you when a fire is present, particularly in the middle of the night when you might not be awake to see a fire.

Types of Smoke Detectors

In modern homes, there are primarily two types of smoke detectors:

Photoelectric Smoke Detectors

A laser is used by the photoelectric smoke detector to detect smoke.

Radioactive Smoke Detectors

The ionization chamber smoke detector has a little amount of radioactive material within that, when smoke enters the chamber, causes a chemical reaction.

These detectors are frequently used in the US. They quickly detect smoke.

When Should Smoke Detectors Be Replaced?

After 10 years or earlier.

Consumers are advised by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) to replace all smoke alarms at 10 years of age or earlier if they do not operate properly when tested, including hard-wired alarms that use 10-year batteries.

Additionally, the NFPA suggests that it’s better to start again and replace the alarms in your new home if you don’t know how old they are.

References

  1. https://recyclenation.com/2015/06/how-to-recycle-smoke-detectors/
  2. https://naparecycling.com/guide/smoke-detector/
  3. https://www.des.nh.gov/sites/g/files/ehbemt341/files/documents/2020-01/hhw-1.pdf
  4. https://www.productcare.org/products/alarms/
  5. https://www.curieservices.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/CuriePack_FAQ_REV_FNL.pdf