Smoke detectors typically fall within two categories: photoelectric and ionization. When it comes to disposal, old photoelectric detectors can be safely put in the trash, so long as you remove the battery first. Read on for information about ionization detectors.
Ionization detectors contain a small amount of Americium 241, a radioactive isotope. When in use, these detectors are perfectly safe, as the radioactive material is shielded by a metal chamber inside the device. If dismantled, however, the radioactive material can become exposed. For this reason, you should never try to take apart an old ionization detector.
To determine whether or not your detector is an ionization type, look on the back; it should either have the letter "I" or say ionization.
Some local hazardous waste collection centers will accept ionization smoke detectors. Please check the "Where to Go" section at the bottom of this page for the closest center.
You can also try to send your old detector back to the original manufacturer. Locate the brand name and/or address on the back of the device, or find the information in the user's manual. After removing the , send the whole unit back intact (do not try to disassemble!) with a note indicating that the device is intended for disposal.
Contact information for some of the major smoke detector manufacturers is included in the "Where to Go" section below.
To our knowledge, is the first and only company in the United States to offer a mail-back recycling program for ionization smoke detectors. Interested individuals should contact Curie for mailing instructions and pricing information.
Please contact us if you know of additional smoke detector recycling programs.