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.

Update

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.

5 comments:

Austin Wedding Photographer said...

Everything that can be thought as trash may still be usable for everyone and you only need your creative mind to make it effective. Great article!

Asic Chip Design said...

Smoke alarms are life-saving devices that provide benefits for occupants. They detect smoke well before any sleeping occupant would and provide critical seconds to implement actions to save life and property. Residents must have at least one working smoke alarm installed on each level of their home, so after your post its become easy for everyone how to recycle their old smoke alarms.

Odessa Hanton said...

Giving the smoke alarm back to the manufacturer is a smart idea. This way, you’re helping the environment by lessening the waste, especially those harmful ones that might affect the health of people. Sometimes, some manufacturers give discounts when you return old smoke alarms. So, instead of throwing it, it is much better to give it back so it can get recycled. ->Odessa Hanton

Joseph Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Access Security said...

Yes, option 3 is not about recycling. With something containing harmful chemicals, recycling wouldn't be a good resort. It's more of just raising an awareness on how to properly dispose it. Some people certainly do not know that there should only be one aged smoke alarm per bin bag until they've read this.