Smoke alarms (or smoke detectors) are much like the millions of items of normal electrical and electronic waste that we generate each year.
They are mostly made up of plastic, a bit of wiring, a few electronic components and a battery.
The batteries at least are easily recycled, and should be removed from smoke alarms before disposal. Recycling the rest of the smoke alarm may be a bit more difficult.
Smoke alarms come in two types: photoelectric and ionisation. Ionisation smoke alarms contain a very small amount of a radioactive material, Americium-241.
The general recommendation, even from EPAs, is that smoke alarms be disposed of in general household waste. This includes up to 10 ionisation type detectors at any one time. The EPA in New South Wales does also mention taking smoke detectors to community recycling centres.
So, while smoke detectors are technically recyclable, it may be difficult to find a program under which they are actually recycled. Like most of our e-waste, they are overwhelmingly headed for a hole in the ground.
Recycling changes coming for Victoria
Hopefully this situation will change next year, particularly in Victoria.
From mid-2019, Victoria will implement a complete ban on all e-waste going into landfill.
This will include smoke detectors, and the scheme will be keenly watched by other states looking for better ways to deal with their e-waste problems.
First proposed in 2015, much work is being done to establish the necessary collection and storage facilities to cope with a huge increase in recycling rates.
An extensive education and awareness campaign will also be rolled out.
Stimulus for innovation
Victoria’s e-waste ban should provide a major stimulus for innovation, and there’s a current precedent.
When China effectively imposed a ban on the import of a wide range of recyclable materials recently, the Australian recycling industry put on its thinking cap, started work on cleaning up our recyclables pipelines, and began investing in the infrastructure to allow much more of the recycling process to happen here.
As a leader in recycling several types of difficult e-waste, Ecocycle is no stranger to innovation.
We are already investing heavily in the equipment that will be needed to meet the increase in recycling demand created by the Victorian ban, particularly in the area of battery recycling.
However, we will also be monitoring the demand for recycling of other e-wastes, including smoke alarms. So, stay tuned.
While it may not be easy to recycle smoke alarms at the moment, that could all change, at least in Victoria, next year.
If you do have a smoke alarm that is no longer up to its job, it might be worthwhile adding it to your collection of deceased gadgets. Then you’ll be ready to whip it off to your nearest new e-waste recycling centre as soon as it comes on stream.
To find out more about e-waste recycling options with Ecocycle, call 1300 32 62 92 or fill in the form below.