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Smoke Detectors

How to safely dispose of old or defective smoke detectors

May Contain

Ionization detectors may contain very small amount of low level radioactive material.

Safer Alternatives

Several types of smoke detectors are available for home use. These smoke detectors include ionization detectors and photoelectric detectors. An ionization detector uses a small disk of radioactive material to detect particles emitted by combustion. A photoelectric detector uses a photo-sensor and light beam to detect smoke. A particular smoke detector technology may only detect certain types of fires. For more information about how detectors work, and the correct applications and sensitivities of ionization detectors vs. photoelectric detectors, see the EPA Website on Smoke Detectors and Radiation.


Do not crush smoke detector.


  • The City Household Hazardous Waste Center does not accept Smoke Detectors.
  • Federal law allows disposal of Household Hazardous Waste like smoke detectors in the trash. It is recommended you to return the product back to the manufacturer. They are mandated by the Nuclear Regulatory law 10 CFR 32.27 to see that radioactive waste is disposed at a nuclear waste disposal facility.
  • When sending back a smoke detector, you should NOT take it apart. The entire smoke detector needs to be returned to the manufacturer or shipped by UPS ground mail (not airmail). The batteries, however, should be removed and properly disposed of or recycled. No special shipping is needed for your smoke detector: just put it in a box, maybe with some newspaper for padding, and send it.
  • If unable to return smoke detector to manufacturer, remove battery from smoke detector and dispose of smoke detector in the garbage if no other options exist.

For more information contact the Albuquerque Solid Waste Management Department at 505-761-8300.