Smoke Alarms

Concerns raised over smoke alarms in small WEEE

30 July 2021

Smoke alarms in Small Mixed WEEE.

The Environment Agency Small Mixed WEEE Storage and Treatment Guide 413_14 (March 2014) was written to help EA Officers with BATRRT compliance at sites which handle small mixed WEEE. The document covers the main storage and treatment requirements for small mixed WEEE using Best Available Treatment Recovery and Recycling Techniques (BATRRT).

Even though published in 2014 the guide was a good starting point for compliance monitoring and highlighted “Radioactive substances must be removed prior to treatment. The main source in SMW is likely to be from ionization smoke detectors”. 

SWEEEP Kuusakoski are finding approx. 1 smoke alarm in every 5 tonnes of small WEEE. 

Some of those smoke alarms are radioactive waste containing americium-241 which emit Alpha particles. Alpha particles are sub‑atomic particles. The range of alpha particles in the air is up to 1 inch, and they can even be blocked by a piece of paper. 

A domestic smoke alarm tucked inside a rollonoff with 5 tonnes of small mixed WEEE is very unlikely to set off a weighbridge radioactive sensor.

SWEEEP Kuusakoski find smoke alarms only by a manual rigorous pre-sorting of the small mixed WEEE. This is labour intensive and thus expensive. 

SWEEEP Kuusakoski use to recycle our smoke alarms and incur a per unit charge.

Justin Greenaway, Commercial Manager SWEEEP Kuusaksoki "It is a major financial saving if a small mixed WEEE Recycler simply ‘never finds any smoke alarms’. There are some excellent AATF's doing what we do and finding the smoke alarms but equally I have concerns some small WEEE recyclers are simply not checking.I would encourage both EA and WEEE PCS to use smoke alarm segregation as a KPI for proper treatment of small Mixed WEEE.

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