Sunday, 15 January 2012

Recycling Smoke Alarms

We all know that we should have smoke alarms fitted in our homes. Those alarms can be damaged and will need replacing every ten years or so anyway. So what do you do with the old ones? Chuck them in the bin? Well, the fact that they are the subject of a best practice guide on the National Household Hazardous Waste Forum suggests that this is probably not the right solution. And indeed, looking at the back of mine, I can see why:

The back of my smoke alarm showing that it is a ionization alarm that contains a small amount of radioactive Americium 241

Ionization smoke alarms contain a small amount of radioactive material, Americium 241. Looking back at the best practice guide above, there are apparently three ways to deal with it:

  1. By a person authorised under section 13 of the Radioactive Substances Act 1993,
  2. By returning it to the manufacturer,
  3. By chucking it in the bin as long as you don't chuck in other radioactive waste and you only throw away one smoke alarm per bin bag.

Option 3 doesn't sound like recycling, while I don't know anybody who can help me with option 1. So that leaves option 2. As I've got the manufacturer's details on the back of the alarm, and their address is confirmed on their web site, that smoke alarm is going to find itself put into a jiffy bag, back to where it came from.

Note that there is another type of smoke alarms: photoelectric ones. They do not contain any dangerous material so are probably safer to dispose of. However, they are geared to detect different types of fires so for maximum protection you should have a combination of both photoelectric and ionization alarms.

For more questions on recycling stuff, have a look at the Recycle This web site.


As very sensibly pointed out by Earth Notes, there may be an even easier way to deal with them: under the WEEE Directive, you can probably just give the old one to the retailer when you buy a new one.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Yodel redefines the word Safe while John Lewis redefines Eco-Friendly

Last week-end I visited the John Lewis web site and bought a couple of Buiani folding chairs. I was advised that they would be delivered within 7 days via a standard delivery service, as opposed to the specialist delivery service you get when you buy larger items and who are very good.

So when I came back home on Wednesday night, I found a very large (more on that later) cardboard box outside my front door and in the letter box was this delivery notice:

Yodel delivery notice

Yodel delivery notice

You will note how they checked the a safe place box. They actually left the parcel outside my front door. Luckily I live in a relatively safe place so theft is unlikely. On the other hand, leaving an unprotected cardboard box outside, in London, in January, with something inside that may suffer from getting wet strikes me as a tad optimistic. Or did check the weather forecast before leaving the box outside?

Another thing that I found rather puzzling was the size of the box. It would have made sense had it contained normal chairs. But folding ones: surely they'd be shipped folded? All was revealed when I opened the box:

The big box

The big box

You will note the green stickers on the left side of the chairs with the FSC logo advising me that those chairs are made from wood from well-managed forests. Brilliant! Unfortunately the amount of Air Pad packaging filling in the box probably offsets all eco-friendly credentials imparted by the FSC logo. On the plus side, it probably means that I now have enough air pads to send presents to my two nieces until they reach adult age (uncles are meant to spoil nieces and nephews, that's part of the job description).