What to do with old smoke alarms?

This post was written by on December 19, 2011
Posted Under: Fire Safety News,News and Updates

Customers ask us occasionally about the recycling of smoke alarms. Here is some information relating to this.

Smoke and heat alarms fall under the WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) regulations. The biggest burden, with regards to the recycling of these goods, falls on businesses manufacturing, rebranding or importing alarms or any other electrical equipment. Retailers like us have to follow a reduced set of regulations.

Retailers have to pay a fee to be allowed to recommend  their domestic customers to drop their old smoke and heat alarms off at local recycling centers (Distributor Take-Back Scheme) rather than returning them to Safelincs for passing on to the manufacturers. As the directive states that the customer should in this case dispose of the old alarm themselves at the recycling centers we could in theory refuse to accept old smoke alarms back from domestic customers. However, we allow customers to send us their old units as a courtesy when they purchase from us.

Ideally, as stated above, domestic customers should drop their old alarms off at their local recycling centers, however, they can also dispose small numbers of alarms in their normal refuse. Quite often customers are concerned that the crossed-out wheelie bin on the back of the alarm means that they must not place the unit in a normal waste bin. This is a mis-understanding, the crossed-out wheelie bin just means that this product falls under the WEEE regulations and ideally should be recycled. Nevertheless, small numbers of smoke alarms are permitted in the household waste. There is currently no differentiation in this respect between the  ionisation and other smoke alarms despite the ionisation alarms containing small amounts of radio-activity.

There are WEEE rules that differ for domestic customers and businesses. Business smoke alarm users can drop small numbers of old alarms off at the recycling centre, where the cost for recycling will be passed on to the manufacturers. Business customers can also pass the smoke alarms on to us. We then pass them on to the manufacturers. This is only the case if they buy new smoke alarms from us at the same time or if they bought the units from us in the first place (there are some detailed rules relating to this regulation, which have been left out for simplicity).