Car seats, although often made of recyclable plastic material, aren’t a widely recycled item across the country. Compared to other recyclable materials, disassembling them can be complicated and time-consuming. While parents across the country have been looking for recycling events for their car seats for years, it seems this demand has only recently manifest itself into real programs.
Jennifer Carcich, a parent from Morristown, N.J., was frustrated with the lack of car seat recycling in her town. But rather than toss her used seat in the trash, she fought for a program in her town – and was rewarded.
“We’ve been pushing for this for quite awhile,” she says in an interview with Daily Record (N.J.), adding that she is expecting a high turnout, since nobody else on the East Coast is doing anything like this.
According to Morristown Moms and Tots’ Recycling Committee Members, Linnea Hasegawa and Jennifer Carcich, “There are many (possibly over one hundred) car safety seat recycling programs across the country; however, as far as we know, none exists in the State of New Jersey.”
They began working with the Town of Morristown in early March to develop what will now be the first curbside car seat recycling program in the State.
Should I Recycle My Car Seat?
But why recycle car seats in the first place? Two main considerations are at work in this situation:
- Car Seats Expire – Yes, car seats have expiration dates. Due to their exposure to extreme conditions (like heat and sun), the plastic from which they are constructed generally degrades in five to six years. All car seats have expiration date stickers on them.
- Car Seats Can’t Be Used After Accidents – This is why car seat reuse isn’t a popular option, since potential buyers are often unsure if a seat has been in a collision, which could weaken the safety structures in the seat.
According to Angelica M. Baker, Phoenix Children’s Hospital Child Safety Passenger Specialist, “Garage sales and trash cans are not the answer to unwanted, old car seats – de-manufacturing and recycling is,” Baker explains. “This is the proper way to dispose of car seats. It’s important not to throw car seats in the dump. We have seen many cases where people will pull old car seats out of dumpsters or trash cans and use them.”
If you’re looking to get a car seat recycling program going in your community, you may have to do a bit of the “grunt” work. Disassembling car seats does require a little work, but it’s worthwhile. Not only will you help keep unsafe seats from being used, but you’ll prevent reusable materials like plastic and metal from being landfilled.
Looking for Program?
On Saturday, May 9, from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., residents can go to the Morristown Town Hall Parking lot where they will learn how to take apart an infant/child safety seat and prepare it for recycling. After May 9th, the town will begin collecting properly disassembled car seats curbside. Town residents will also be able to drop their disassembled car seats off at Shade Tree Garage and Marty’s Reliable Cycle in Morristown.
One of the first car seat recycling programs in the country, Colorado Children’s Automobile Safety Foundation, collects units from around the state. In 2005, more than 750 car seats were collected and recycled, and by 2008, the recycler was expecting to process more than 4,000 units. Also, on April 29, Safe Kids King County and other organizations will sponsor Seattle’s second car seat recycling drive at IKEA.
Additionally, Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore., regularly holds car seat safety checks, which also include a drop-off site for car seat recycling. If you don’t make it to one of their safety events, Legacy has an open cart drop off in the city where you can bring your car seats anytime. For more information, contact Tom Badrick, sustainability coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recycle Utah in Park City sponsored its first car seat recycling event in 2008. Volunteers disassembled car seats for recycling and saved the straps for reuse at a local bag manufacturer.