Car seats are something every child needs, but there has always been a lack of support from the manufacturers on what to do with them when we do not need them anymore. Car seat recycling is something every manufacturer should be doing and we encourage you to help us make the change.
One of our readers, Kerry, who is very interested in bringing car seat recycling to her community emailed us that she contacted Graco, the company that manufactured her child’s car seat. She told them she’d be very interested in a “take back” program or a way to recycle the car seat.
She was disappointed to get the following response:
Kerry, thank you for contacting Graco. Unfortunately, at this time we do not have a recycling program for our car seats. If you need further assistance, please contact us again.
As Kerry puts it, Graco is “letting a marketing opportunity just pass them by!” Well put Kerry, I couldn’t agree with you more!
We, the moms who dutifully buy and install and ensure the safety of our children while driving in car seats, want to find a way to recycle expired car seats. If we all write to our car seat manufacturers, they might actually start paying attention.
I have two Britax car seats and two Graco boosters and plan on writing to these manufacturers, and I hope you will join me in doing so:
Dear Car Seat Manufacturer,
Thank you for making a product that protects the safety of my child while in the car. We chose your product because we felt it was rated high in safety, ease of use and was affordable. What’s troubling is that many car seats don’t get recycled at their end of life. We don’t want to hand-down a seat to a friend or family member if it is too old. But we do want to recycle it. We live in a city that actually offers car seat recycling, where they can dismantle and recycle 95% of each seat.
What you could do, on the manufacturing end of things, is make car seats that are easy for real people to take apart: design for disassembly. Here in the US, most families buy a lot of car seats, since the safety of our children is important. But so is our environment. Most people would recycle their car seats given the opportunity. I know I will.
Please consider making your car seats easier to recycle, with design for disassembly as part of your process, and I will continue to support your products and encourage my friends with kids to purchase them.
US Car Seat Manufacturers
Here are some of the major car seat manufacturers in the US if you would like to contact them, and tell them your thoughts about car seat recycling and design for disassembly. We are hoping we can help them understand how important this is to reduce the carbon footprint for the future of our planet!
Most of their web sites say they would love to hear from us, so let’s do this.
Recycling Car Seat Options
If your car seat manufacturer does not offer recycling or buyback options, there are other options available. Recycleyourcarseat.org has a list of US based programs that can help you.
Why Is Car Seat Recycling So Complicated?
In our local community I worked closely with our sustainability coordinator to find out what is needed to recycle car seats. What they shared with me helped me understand why recycling car seats is so difficult. Here is what is required:
- Market for the materials. This is true for any recycling endeavor. You’ve got to have a market for the materials before it’s worthwhile to actually recycle.
- Collection and storage site. Legacy is collecting on their parking lots.
- Labor for disassembly. Legacy has a recycling center and their employees dismantle the car seats, with the recyclables being the plastic, metal and foam. They don’t currently recycle the fabric covering, but are recycling and diverting 95% of the materials from landfills. Another important thing Tom mentioned is that design for disassembly is key. Some seats are easier to disassemble than others. Manufacturers need to know that this is an important component in making car seats.
- A way to transport materials for recycling
Setting Up Car Seat Recycling In Your Community
The advice below is from my sustainability coordinator who was thrilled to offer tips to get a recycling mission going in your local community.
- Find a willing partner who already has a recycling program in place for other similar items
- Have volunteers willing to dismantle the car safety seats (this can be a time-consuming process)
- Start small and build BIG as you get the processes in place. (Our local program started with word-of-mouth and a flyer for promotion in July 2007. Now, they are featured on websites, recycling newsletters, etc. and have recycled 600+ seats to date).
- Our local programs biggest challenge is establishing drop-off points. People like the convenience of a drop-off location but with unmanned drop-offs it could be tempting for someone to take an expired or unsafe car safety seat (generally, seats are deemed unsafe if they’ve been in an accident or are older than 6 years).
So, do you feel we need a more nationally based car seat recycling program in place?
Would you recycle your child’s expired car seat if you had the option to do so? Would you write to car seat manufacturers about the importance of design for disassembly?
If you comment, please let us know where you live, how many seats your family will use during your children’s car seat years, and if you are ready to be part of the “critical mass” to let car seat manufacturers know it’s time for a national program to take back and recycle those old car seats!!