Smoke Detector Disposal

The article “Dispose of Smoke Detectors Properly” in Postal Bulletin 22334 (April 5, 2012) contains outdated information. As a result of frequent changes in manufacturer ownership, contact information, return instructions, and return fees, it is no longer practical for the Postal Service to issue specific instructions on how to recycle particular brands of smoke detectors. Instead, postal facilities should follow the steps below to identify disposal options.

Three common types of smoke detectors may be present at postal facilities: ionization, photoelectric, and dual-sensor detectors. Ionization and dual-sensor smoke detectors contain a tiny amount of radioactive material known as Americium 241. Photoelectric smoke detectors do not contain any radioactive material.

The amount of radioactive material contained in ionization and dual-sensor smoke detectors is so small it does not pose a risk to human health. If the detector contains radioactive material, it is required by law to have a warning label on the body of the detector. Look for the label on the back of the detector facing the mounting base. The label may have the international symbol for radiation (as shown below).

International symbol for radiation

All ionization and dual-sensor smoke detectors, regardless of brand, should be recycled whenever possible. Recycling may be available through either the manufacturer or through a community or state recycling program.

Take the following steps to investigate whether a manufacturer offers a recycling program for its smoke detectors:

1. Locate the manufacturer’s telephone number and/or website on the back of the smoke detector.

2. Call the number provided and/or visit the website to confirm whether a recycling program is available, and the details of the return process. Some manufacturers offer returns via a mail-back program.

If the manufacturer will not take back the ionization or dual-sensor smoke detector, contact the local or state environmental agency to identify whether a local recycling program exists and, if so, the program details. Local recycling programs may include drop-off locations for used smoke detectors. If recycling is unavailable, the regulatory agency can also confirm whether any local restrictions exist on disposing of smoke detectors in the trash.

If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the proper recycling or disposal of smoke detectors, check with your local and/or state environmental agency or contact your regional designated environmental contact listed at

USPS Issues Medal of Honor: Vietnam War Forever Stamps. On Sale Nationwide: May 25, 2015.