Fire alarm disposal and recycling

Fire alarms are an innovative safety device that alerts us to the presence of fires in our homes and buildings. Countless lives have been saved thanks to properly installed fire alarms. In this article, we’re going to look at fire alarms, their history, interesting facts about fire alarms and how to properly dispose of and recycle them.

smoke detector fire alarm disposal and recycle

Who invented the fire alarm?

The first contemporary fire alarm was patented by Francis Robbins in 1890. At the time, his fire alarm design was quite unpopular and few people chose to use it. Over time, though, many recognised the utility and safety that fire alarms offered properties and they grew in popularity. Today, fire alarms are found in most buildings – especially those that are in larger towns and cities that require a rapid response from fire services.

What are fire alarms made from?

Fire alarms are made up of several parts to help detect different stimuli such as smoke or heat. Some of the common components that make up a fire alarm include:

    • Americium oxide
    • Silver
    • Gold
    • Battery
    • Plastic housing
    • Alarm horn
    • Circuit-board

How do you dispose of a fire alarm?

Smoke, fire and heat alarms are categorised as WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment) and need to be disposed of properly. Under the regulations surrounding WEEE products, retailers are required to pay a fee that allows customers to return old alarms to local recycling centres for disposal.

For domestic fire alarms and smoke alarms, you’re allowed to dispose of a small number of alarms through normal household refuse, provided that your local recycling centre has no specific smoke or fire alarm arrangements in place.

For businesses and retail spaces with old smoke or fire alarms, they must be taken to a recycling centre for disposal and cannot be disposed of through normal refuse.

What type of waste is found in fire alarms?

Fire alarms and smoke detectors contain certain radioactive material, which means that they need to be disposed of separately from general waste and recycling. The radioactive element is removed by a specialist contractor who sends it to a treatment facility that focuses on WEEE recycling.

How are fire alarms made?

Modern fire alarms and smoke detectors are constructed using a two-step process. The first step is the fabrication of Americium oxide into a foil package that can be installed into the alarm system. The second stage of the process assembles the housing and individual pre-fabricated components of the alarm.

Most manufacturing of fire alarms is automated to ensure the health and safety of employees when dealing with radioactive material. Many quality tests and inspections are performed throughout the manufacturing process to ensure the fire alarm works as intended.

What happens to old fire alarms after they have been put in the bin?

If an old fire alarm is marked for recycling, several components can be saved by specialists. Precious metals including gold and silver can be carefully removed and recycled, as well as the plastic housing for the fire alarm. Circuit boards are also recycled as they contain some precious metals and useful materials such as silicon.

What are the costs associated with disposing of and recycling fire alarms?

If you are a business that is disposing of or recycling fire alarms, you can drop small numbers of old alarms into recycling centres. The cost for recycling is passed on to the manufacturer of the alarms.

For domestic fire alarms, you can recycle them at a local recycling centre for free or dispose of them in your general household waste if your recycling centre lacks a scheme for fire alarms.

Visit our learn about section to find out more about how different products are disposed and recycled.

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