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How to dispose of smoke alarms

Updated March 23, 2017

A smoke alarm is a tool that emits a loud sound when excessive smoke is detected. This preventive device is used to become aware of life-threatening situations. There are two types of smoke alarms available on the market -- ionisation and photoelectric alarms. Smoke alarms under the ionisation category contain radioactive materials. This material is integrated into a gold matrix and is found in a chamber within the smoke alarm. Photoelectric alarms lack this material but contain plastic, circuit boards and batteries, which can either be alkaline or lithium.

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  1. Know the difference between the two types of smoke alarms. Ionisation smoke alarms cannot be recycled but can still be disposed of.

  2. Put on latex or rubber gloves, especially when handling items that may contain some radioactive materials.

  3. Remove the battery from the smoke alarm unit. Dispose of the battery according to your local recycling bylaws and disposal methods.

  4. Grab hold of the plastic exterior and remove it. Take this plastic casing and recycle it, along with your other plastics.

  5. Find the address of your smoke alarm manufacturer. This can be found in either the warranty or user manual of the smoke alarm.


  1. Pack the remainder of the smoke alarm unit in a box and place either bubble wrap or styrofoam and close the box with packing tape. Take the package to the Post Office carrier and send it to the manufacturer.

  2. Find a recycling or household waste centre in your vicinity. This can be done in case the smoke alarm manufacturer does not accept the unit for return.

  3. Drop off the smoke alarm unit at your local recycling or sanitation centre. The centre will know how to properly dispose of the unit.

  4. Wash your hands and disinfect thoroughly when you finish handling the smoke alarm unit.

  5. Tip

    Special shipping is not required for the smoke alarm package. Just ship it out like any other normal package.


    Do not crush the smoke alarm unit.

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About the Author

Jason Candanedo is currently a student at Empire State College, pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in social theory, social structure and change. He has been writing since August 2008 on his political blog and since September 2009 as a freelance writer for various websites.

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