Surprisingly, we were hard pressed to find federal regulations or programs for recycling smoke detectors. We couldn’t even find a smoke detector disposal site at Lowes or Home Depot. Fortunately, a few agencies have come up with some helpful guidelines to show you how to dispose of smoke detectors properly.
Do not throw your smoke detector in the trash.
Smoke detectors contain a number of elements and materials that are not suitable for landfills. The following guidelines may be followed when disposing other types of electronic equipment as well. In the interest of preserving our planet, caution should be taken upon disposing of smoke detectors for the following reasons:
Some Detectors Contain Radioactive Materials
Ionization smoke detectors use a small amount of radioactive material in the sensor called Americium 241. While the amount used in most newer ionization smoke alarms is minute and not harmful to humans, it has a very long half life. In fact, chances are when the time comes to replace your ionization smoke alarm, even one with a 10 year battery will have the same the amount of radioactive material as when you bought it.
Some older and uncommon high voltage ionization detectors that are typically hardwired and exist in commercial buildings may contain a higher amount of radioactive material and need to be handled differently. Since they were phased out over 20 years ago, it is unlikely that you would encounter this. Click here to view a publication by the Federal Emergency Management Agency which can guide you on how to identify one of these older high voltage ionization detectors and properly dispose of it.
Circuit Boards in Smoke Alarms Are Bad for Landfills
Nearly all smoke detectors, photoelectric or ionization models contain circuit boards which are very bad for landfills. Circuit boards contain lead among other toxins that can leach into the ground and eventually our water supply.
Alkaline and Lithium Batteries
Some detectors contain removable alkaline batteries, just like the ones you would use in your remote control. Furthermore, 10 year sealed battery smoke alarms are as stated, sealed—thus making battery removal impossible. Batteries, alkaline or lithium do not belong in landfills.
Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Sites
You may be able to find local hazardous waste programs for smoke detector disposal. Finding one could be as simple as Googleing “your city + hazardous waste”. While you’re there you can also get rid of your old batteries, medications, chemical cleaners and other electronic equipment. They know how to dispose of smoke detectors and you can drop it off with assurance that the radioactive material contained in an ionization smoke detector is handled properly.
For Radioactive Smoke Detector Disposal – Return it to the Manufacturer
For americium smoke detector disposal or other highly radioactive smoke detector disposal your best bet is to return it to the manufacturer. Albeit, a pain in the butt, this is also the best method of carbon monoxide detector disposal, photoelectric and ionization smoke alarms (all others). First alert disposal address can be found below as well as other manufacturers and their respective shipping address to return old smoke detectors.
Manufacturer/Distributor Phone Number Address for Return Notes American Sensors/Dicon Global 800-387-4219
Call to receive a number and return information
Accepts Dicon Global
American Sensors brands only
Firex 800-445-8299 Firex c/o Disposal
28C Leigh Fisher Blvd.
El Paso, TX 79906
First Alert/BRK 800-323-9005 Ext. 2 Customer Service Dept
3920 Enterprise Court
Aurora, IL 60504
Accepts up to four device of First Alert/BRK brand at a time. Call ahead for mailing instructions. G.E. Security/ESL 888-437-3287 12345 Southwest Levetan Dr.
Tualatin, OR 97062
Will accept G.E. Security/ESL brands only Honeywell 800-328-5111 Returned Goods,
1985 Douglas Drive North
Golden Valley, MN 55422
Accepts Honeywell smoke detectors only www.ecccustomercare.com Kidde 800-880-6788 Ext. 1 1016 Corporate Park Dr.
Mebane, NC 27302
Will only accept Kidde brand smoke detectors Sears local number Some Sears locations are
designated collection sites
Call to find out if local Sears will accept smoke detectors System Sensors 800-736-7672 Ext. 1 Call to receive a reference
number and return information
Will accept “System Sensor” brand only. Asking payment of $3.00 for each detector to cover recycling costs. USI Electric/Universal 800-390-4321 Ext. 1 Attention: Disposal Dept.
7A Gwynns Mill Court
Owings Mills, MD 21117
Return only detectors that say “ionization” on the back. Only USI Electric or Universal brand detectors accepted. Enclose a note that the smoke detector is being returned for recycling.
Source: United States Postal Service Dispose of Smoke Detectors Properly