How to Recycle an Outgrown Child Car Seat

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Car seats need to be upgraded several times as your child grows. Photo: Flickr/<a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/icanchangethisright/7483820390/in/photolist-iZJiGf-biHKg8-bhLMvt-iZG53X-bhMjTH-dpPBPx-bhLRmM-bhMxzK-eBmRdn-dpRikx-bhLSuX-auZyQP-cpjx53-kaKPjw-iZHupD-bxj5Mc-btpfs1-iZFT9x-bhME4a-cpjvdG-cpix2u-a5YDqh-a5VMSD-a5YDzq-a5YDDG-55B5BM-6p6wuw-5MMURj-4SsDU4-emeZUt-61N35c" target="_blank">Bradley Gordon</a>

Car seats need to be upgraded several times as your child grows. Photo: Flickr/Bradley Gordon

Children outgrow things quickly, and car seats are no exception. They are typically bought new (roughly 9 million to 12 million car seats are purchased in the United States each year) and need to be upgraded several times as your child grows. That’s a lot of waste.

When I was ready to get rid of my daughter’s car seat, the question arose: What can I do with it?

Can I Donate It?

A car seat can be passed on to someone else only if it has never been in an accident and has not expired. Most manufacturers list an expiration date on the seat; if you can’t find one, six years is often considered the limit. Why? The materials degrade over time — especially from the intense ultraviolet light coming through car windows — and this compromises their safety benefits.

Most manufacturers list an expiration date on the seat. Photo: Donna DeForbes

Most manufacturers list an expiration date on the seat. Photo: Donna DeForbes

Buyer’s Note: Are you thinking about acquiring a secondhand car seat? To be on the safe side, only accept used car seats from people you know. You need to be able to trust their account of the car seat’s history.

Learn more about used car seat safety and expiration dates.

Can I Recycle It?

I contacted the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation to find out about recycling options in my state. While they do not accept car seats as a whole, the recycling program manager informed me that if I disassembled the seat myself, I could then drop off the plastic, metal and fabric components at their facility for recycling.

Fabulous! It took me about 15 minutes to disassemble my daughter’s outgrown car seat (I was slightly disturbed by this) and separate it into its different components.

A car seat may need to be disassembled before being accepted for recycling. Photo: Flickr/ <a href="https://www.flickr.com/photos/recycleutah/3631284420/in/photolist-85AETw-eBJiwj-5eASyy-7WTNgk-6wThm5-6wP784-aNeRF-78VKnh-4RPa21-bohSGe-7YR3qx-7uBqJs-doJ3Jm-4YFQEk-kXhcNj/" target="_blank">Recycle Utah</a>

A car seat may need to be disassembled before being accepted for recycling. Photo: Flickr/ Recycle Utah

Check with your town’s recycling facility to see if they accept disassembled parts.

Some areas in the United States offer car seat recycling drop-off centers. These include:

Next page: Why don’t more cities offer recycling centers?

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