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The legislative requirements for the disposal of smoke detectors govern how a smoke detector is stored, disposed of, packaged and transported.  The regulations are complex as several different regulations apply and they are regularly reviewed and updated by their governing bodies. The Environment Agency enforces compliance to these regulations:

The Ionising Radiations Regulations (IRR)

The Environmental Permitting Regulations (England and Wales) (EPR)

The Radioactive Substances Act (Northern Ireland and Scotland only) (RSA)

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations (WEEE)

The Carriage of Dangerous Goods and Use of Transportable Pressure Equipment Regulations (CDG)

The specific requirements vary by type of smoke detector, quantity and activity level.

The necessary identification information is on the back next to the radioactive symbol.

The activity of the radioactive element is given in either kilo Becquerels (kBq) or micro Curies (µCi). The isotope will be either Americium (Am-241) or Radium (Ra-226).

The radioactive legislations contain some exemption criteria for smoke detectors. Some Am-241 detectors of less than 40kBq are exempt from both EPR and RSA, and transport regulations provided the appropriate conditions are met.

Critically, it is an exemption from certain aspects of the radioactive legislation and not from its entirety. Many conditions still need to be met such as record keeping, use of an authorised disposal route and security to name a few.

Legislative requirements:

The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE) enforces the safety and environmental management of waste arising from electrical and electronic equipment.

WEEE items MUST be pre-treated prior to disposal if they contain radioactive or other hazardous materials:

  • Any radioactive element must be removed at an approved facility first before processing at a WEEE processor.

  • Producers are liable for ensuring WEEE items are properly disposed of.

Most smoke detectors must be transported in accordance with CDG. This is enforced by the Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) and supported by the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA).

This includes industrial smoke detectors, high activity detectors, detectors containing a Ra-226 isotope and quantities of household detectors.

All non-exempt smoke detectors MUST be disposed of legally and shipped under the appropriate transport legislation:

  • In an approved transport package.

  • Appropriate UN Labelling.

  • Accompanied by transportation documentation and declaration.

Where appropriate, the vehicle must be placarded and the driver trained in the carriage of dangerous goods.

The complex nature of smoke detector disposal means that it is advisable to seek guidance throughout the disposal process. 


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