Two common types of smoke detector found in homes are ionization and photo­electric detectors. Ionization smoke detectors contain a very small amount of radioactive material, Americium 241, and are required by law to have a warning label. It is not necessary to treat these items as low-level radioactive waste. The amount of radioactive material is so small it is widely believed that they do not pose a risk to human health, which is why they are available for general consumer use. Photoelectric-type smoke detectors do not contain radioactive material. It is generally safe to assume these devices can be discarded with your normal trash. However, some manufacturers will sponsor take-back programs for a small fee. We advise residents to do the following:

  1. Remove any batteries from the smoke detector that are easily accessible. Do not break open or breach smoke detectors with non-removable batteries.
  2. Contact the manufacturer or a specialized recycler. Many companies sponsor take back programs to mail this item back to the manufacturer for a small fee or for free. Click here for a list of smoke detector manufacturers with contact information. According to Recycle Right NY, First Alert will dispose of up to four ionization smoke detectors. These devices must be First Alert, BRK, Family Gard or Onelink brand. If you have more than four detectors, they will charge a small fee.  Learn more about First Alert’s Disposal Program. According to Recycle Right NY, if you have devices from other brands, one recycling program may be available for a fee, Curie Environmental Services. For large quantities, American Lamp Recycling offers a residential mail back recycling kit.
  3. Dispose of your smoke detector(s) in the regular trash.