Read This Before Recycling a Smoke Detector

Just in case you missed our article titled Home Smoke Detector Disposal, a How To we felt it necessary to follow up with an article for anyone looking to recycle their old smoke alarm.

Naturally, since most of them are plastic one may think it can simply be piled in with your other household recyclables. This is a misconception because some smoke detectors contain small amounts of radioactive material that are harmful to the environment. Just like CFL bulbs, smoke detectors require specific steps to discard properly.

First, identify what kind of smoke detector it is

Figuring out what kind of smoke alarm it is will determine how you discard it. Most smoke detectors will have some identifying information either on the bottom of the unit where it attaches to the ceiling or inside the battery compartment. The most common types of smoke detectors are photoelectric, ionization, dual sensor, or carbon monoxide (CO2). Look for markings indicating such.

I know what kind of smoke detector it is, now what?

Ionization smoke detectors should absolutely never be placed in a recycle bin or trash can. Ionization smoke detectors contain small amounts of a radioactive material. While the amount is small and not considered unsafe if left undisturbed, it wouldn’t be good for the environment ending up in a landfill. If you have a dual sensor smoke detector or combination smoke alarm, it’s important to determine if it is using ionization sensors even if it’s not clearly evident. If there is any doubt, we suggest searching on the internet for your model number to determine what kind of smoke detector it is.

Send it back to the manufacturer

This is the safest way to properly discard of any smoke alarm. While an inconvenience for some, it’s absolutely necessary when getting rid of an ionization model. Simply visit the manufacturer’s website and look for information on where to send old smoke detectors.

Here are some links to the contact pages of popular smoke alarm manufacturers.

First Alert
BRK Brands
Universal Security

It’s not an ionization smoke detector, can I just place it in the recycle bin?

Since municipalities have varying rules on recycling we can’t be certain if recycling your smoke detector is permitted. If sending the unit back to the manufacturer is simply not an option, it is safe to discard your non-ionization model in the trash.

While you can properly dispose of your old, non-working smoke detector you can not reuse or recycle your old smoke detector nor is it safe to upcycle your old smoke alarm.