Life-saving device gets its own recycling program in Porter County

Written by Chronicle Staff. Posted in Community News & People in the News

Published on July 04, 2018 with No Comments

PPorter County Recycling Executive Director Therese Haller presents Valparaiso Assistant Chief Jon Daly with the container for Fire Station #2 that will be used to collect smoke detectors from Porter County residents. The new recycling program kicks off July 1 with a number of collection points around the county.

Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction is partnering with a number of fire departments throughout the county to offer its residents the opportunity to recycle a previously unmanaged product.

Smoke detectors have long posed a challenge for disposal, because many use small amounts of radioactive material, americium-241, to detect smoke. Many residents want to bring these products to household hazardous waste collections for proper disposal; however, smoke detectors are not accepted at these events due to their radioactivity.

Though top environmental and industry experts indicate that it is safe to dispose of smoke detectors in residential trash, Porter County Recycling will begin collecting its residents’ unwanted detectors and sending them for recycling with Curie Environmental Services, where the americium-241 will be segregated and sent to a special waste fill.

Porter County Recycling Executive Director Therese Haller presents Chesterton Fire Lt. Brent Valpatic (left) and Firefighter Josh Mohlke with the container that will be used to collect smoke detectors from Porter County residents. The new recycling program kicks off July 1 with a number of collection points around the county.

“We have long handled calls by residents asking where they can responsibly dispose of their old smoke detectors,” said Therese Haller, Porter County Recycling executive director. “Our answers have ranged from ‘throw them in your trash’ to ‘send them back to the manufacturers.’ We had no definite solutions.”

Haller said many of her inquiries to smoke detector manufacturers asking for information about how they recycle smoke detectors returned to them by consumers went unanswered. The companies that were reached never provided her with requested information.

According to the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission website, smoke detectors are very safe; “A 2001 NRC study found people with two of these units in their homes receive less than 0.002 millirems of radiation dose each year. That dose can be compared to the background radiation that people receive from space and the earth.”

“While the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says smoke detectors do not pose a health threat as long as they are not tampered with and used as directed, the state of the detectors will be compromised when placed in our waste stream because the chances they will be crushed during collection, transport and burial are great,” Haller said.

Compaction is widely used in the waste industry to reduce the size of trash and create space for more. Garbage trucks, for instance, crush waste to maximize hauling space while collecting through neighborhoods; semi-trucks at transfer stations are packed with trash destined for a landfill; and the trash dumped in landfills is compacted to conserve valuable airspace and to extend the landfills’ life spans.

“The new recycling program will ensure the radioactive material is managed properly without any potential negative effects to humans or the environment,” she said.

As of July 1, Porter County residents can drop off their expired smoke detectors at any one of the following locations: Chesterton Fire Department, 702 Broadway; Porter Fire Department, 550 Beam St.; Valparaiso Fire Department Station 2, 2605 Cumberland Dr.; Ogden Dunes Fire Department, 111 Hillcrest Rd.; Lakes of the Four Seasons Volunteer Fire Force Inc., 10645 Randolph St., Suite D, Winfield; South Haven Fire Dept., 398 West 700 North, Valparaiso; Hebron Fire Department, 109 North Washington St.; and Porter EMS Station #3, 453 West State Rd. 8, Hebron.

Residents can also recycle smoke detectors at either public compost site: Valparaiso, 2150 W. Lincolnway, or Boone Grove, 546 South 400 West.

Visit www.PorterCountyRecycling.orgfor additional details on the accessibility of the drop-off sites or call Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction at 219-465-3694.

Carbon monoxide detectors do not contain radioactivity and can be recycled in Porter County Recycling’s regular electronics recycling program. Details on recycling electronics are available on www.PorterCountyRecycling.org.

Not all solid waste districts in Indiana offer recycling programs for smoke detectors. The programs provided by the districts to their residents are based on needs and budgets.

Porter County Recycling & Waste Reduction is an agency dedicated to improving the environment and quality of life by providing services and educational programs which help residents reduce, reuse, and recycle.


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