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Hazardous Waste Symbol Picture by Francisco Javier Argel at http://www.flickr.com/photos/totoro_zine/2062522813/

Hazardous Waste Warning

Wastes in this section are dangerous to you and the environment. Handle them carefully and dispose of them properly.



Legally, households may not transport more than 15 gallons of wet or 125 pounds of dry hazardous materials. Read about the regulation.

Smoke Detectors

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-Based Smoke 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.

So how do I dispose of an ionization detector?

Unfortunately, hazardous waste collection centers in Santa Barbara County are not permitted to accept radioactive material, including ionization smoke detectors. Instead you should 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 battery, 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.

What about recycling options?

To our knowledge Curie Environmental Services 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.

Can I put my old smoke detector in the trash?

If the manufacturer is unwilling to accept your smoke detector and you're unable to pay for a recycling program such as Curie's, yes, you can put your smoke detector in the trash. In California smoke detectors are not currently regulated as hazardous waste.

The federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission formerly required manufacturers to take back smoke detectors from consumers (a great example of product stewardship!) but no longer requires so.

Where to go