Smoke detectors save hundreds of lives each year. They are a safety tool every home should have. I can tell you how to recycle your smoke detector when it is time to replace your lifesaving device.
Smoke detectors can often be sent back to their manufacturer who will reuse their parts. Otherwise, many other places will take the parts from your smoke detector if you mail them the device. You cannot throw away your smoke detector, though, because it contains radioactive materials.
As you can see it is important to recycle your smoke detector to keep radioactive materials out of the landfills. Read on to learn more about how to recycle your smoke detector.
Where to Recycle your Smoke Detectors
There are many resources on how to recycle your smoke detector. To begin with, the manufacturer that you bought your smoke detector from may take it back.
It is common for manufacturers to take back smoke detectors for recycling and disposal. The only fee for doing this would be a postage fee. A company that does have a smoke detector return policy is First Alert. They will take up to four alarms at a time and the only cost to you would be postage. The United States Postal Service has a list of companies and places that will take different types of smoke detectors. The list includes locations all around the country. The list compiled by the United States Postal Service even includes instructions on how to give your device to these organizations. This list is a great resource.
Many local recycling centers will also take your smoke alarms. Look up online your local centers and give them a call to see if they are taking devices like your detector. If they are drive it over and they will take care of it from there.
Other options for gaining more knowledge on where to dump your smoke detector are calling your local board of health or your local department of public works. These offices might have some ideas or contacts that take old smoke detectors and most definitely will know the safest way to dispose of your smoke detector in your area.
Types of Smoke Detectors
There are two main types of smoke detectors and both of these have their own disposal suggestions.
The first type of smoke detector is the ionization smoke detector. This detector is created by forming an electrical circuit. This electrical circuit is charged with a little bit of radioactivity.
The type of radioactivity that the ionization smoke detector possesses is called Americium 241. Americium works by charging air molecules to create positive or negative ions that keep electrical currents moving. When smoke enters the unit it disrupts the process of Americium converting air into positive and negative ions. Therefore, an alarm is set off alerting the household of the danger of a fire. Americium 241 is not dangerous to people unless they take down their alarm and break into the case exposing themselves to higher levels of Americium 241.
The second kind of smoke detector is the photoelectric smoke detector. Unlike the ionization smoke detector, it does not run off of radioactivity. Instead, the photoelectric smoke detector uses light. The photoelectric smoke detector has a small LED light that is going at all times. When smoke enters the unit it scatters the LED light rays to a small sensor. Once this sensor picks up on the light it signals for the smoke detector to go off. The photoelectric smoke detector is much safer for disposing of in the garbage, because of its lack of Americium 241. Therefore, if you have a photoelectric smoke detector you do not have to worry about recycling it if you do not wish to.
What is your Smoke Detector Being Reused for
Many materials can be reused when you recycle your smoke detector. For instance, the circuit board can be reused. Your smoke detector circuit board consists of metals, plastic, and gold. These are very precious materials that can be used for several different things. Overall, they can be reused to make more smoke detectors. The metals the recycling company will melt down again. They will make it capable of reshaping to help create new items. The plastics your recycling center will chop up and then melt into pellets. They then can be remelted into new molds.
Overall by recycling your smoke detector they have the opportunity to create new supplies and saves on the resource that our planet offers us.
Should you or Should you not Recycle your Smoke Detector
There are some mixed messages on whether smoke detectors should be recycled or not. Most companies agree on the fact that you should remove the batteries of your smoke detector before disposing of it. First Aid suggests recycling your ionization smoke alarm but says that you can throw away your photoelectric smoke alarm. EPA, on the other hand, says that there has been no official advice on how to dispose of an ionization smoke alarm. Therefore, EPA suggests that you just throw away your ionization smoke alarm.
Overall there is a lot of contradicting information on how you should dispose of your smoke alarm. I personally believe that the best option is to recycle your smoke detector. My reasons, though, have very little to do with radiation. The United States of America is in a waste management crisis. The average person in the United States of America throws away 4.4 pounds of trash every day. That means every day we throw away around 724,900 metric tons of trash a day.
Our landfills are filling up and this is causing negative consequences for the environment. The contents of the landfills are affecting the soil they sit on by poisoning it with the content they possess. This also leaks into the water systems and affects the waters that we drink.
We have been given the resources to recycle our smoke detectors. There are companies who would love to be able to reuse the materials in our smoke detectors. Therefore, I think it is worth the little bit of extra effort to help with the waste management crisis and to help save the environment
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