Update: Smoke Detector Disposal

As a result of frequent changes in manufacturer ownership, contact information, return instructions, and return fees, it is not practical for the United States Postal Service® to issue specific instructions on how to recycle particular brands of smoke detectors. For this reason, the article titled “Smoke Detector Disposal,” which appeared in Postal Bulletin 22426 (10-15-15, page 47) has been updated. Instead, Postal Service™ facilities must follow the steps below to identify smoke detector 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 very small 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 that 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 (shown here):

Radiation image


All ionization and dual-sensor smoke detectors, regardless of brand, should be recycled whenever possible. Recycling is typically 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 or website on the back of the smoke detector.

2. Call the number provided or visit the website to confirm whether a recycling program is available, as well as 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, request 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 disposal of smoke detectors in the trash.

If you have more questions or concerns about the proper recycling or disposal of smoke detectors, check with your local or state environmental agency, or contact your regional designated environmental contact at