Every year in the US, about 10 to 12 million children’s car safety seats are sold , however it is estimated that only 10% are recycled at the end of their life. Used car seats are needlessly thrown in landfills, and eco-conscious consumers are left asking the question of how to recycle a car seat. Throwing those car seats away adds up to roughly 180 million pound of recyclable materials that get taken out of the supply chain annually. Car Seat Recycling created child safety seats recycling solutions to help environmentally conscious brands and consumers safely recycle used or damaged car seats. Over the years, we recycled over 500,000 car seats, making sure that the usable materials in car seats can be recovered, reused, and diverted from landfills – and this is how child safety seats are recycled:
How to Recycle a Car Seat: A Few Solutions Are Available Today
- Take-back programs from manufacturer
- Take-back program from retailers
- Online mail back options
- Recycling programs offered by municipalities
When should you recycle a car seat?
No matter the make or model, all children’s car seats have a shelf life. Depending on the design of the seat, some may last as long as 6-10 years. Other seats will be outgrown by your child in 2-3 years. Children’s car seats also experience recalls like any other product, and car seats that have been in an accident have to be disposed of. All of these things lead to a need to dispose of children’s car seats to be recycled. Here are several options available for consumers today:
A few retailers offer take-back programs designed to help consumers get rid of their old or damaged children’s care seats every year. Often, these programs include incentives towards replacements and upgrade, which makes them very attractive to consumers. The problem with these programs is their limited availability, as they usually only run for a week in September to coincide with baby safety week or in April to celebrate Earth Day.
Very few municipalities offer a recycling program to help resident recycle their used or broken car seats, as they are notoriously difficult and expensive to recycle.
Some forward-thinking manufacturers like CLEK and WAYB offer a recycling program for the car seats they sell, providing their consumers with a recycling and incentive program for returning their car seats in an effort to combine safety with sustainability.
Carseatrecycling.com is an example of an online recycling solution that is available to consumers in the continental US any time they need it. You simply go and buy a recycling kit for your type of car seat, we send it you, you pack your seat up, drop it off at a UPS shipping center, and you’re done. The seats are shipped to one of our recyclers for dismantling, sorting, and recycling.
One of the challenges of how to recycle a car seat is that they must be dismantled to sort all of the different materials for recycling. The process is time consuming when done manually, while automated crushing and sorting equipment is only an economically feasible solution when processing large volume of used car seats at a time.
Car Seat Recycling works with a network of carefully vetted recyclers across the US. Some are better suited to process a few hundred a week, while others are equipped to safely handle several truckloads per day . Regardless of the throughput capacity, all recyclers ensure that the highest volume of recyclable materials is properly recycled. On average, 85-90% of a car seat is recycled.
The average car seat is made up of non-recyclable and recyclable materials. Here is how they are broken down:
Car Seat Materials that are Not Recyclable:
Harness and Straps
These secure the child to the car seat or the car seat to the vehicle. The harness and straps are frequently made of polyester webbing and are not widely recyclable. People who make bags or belts from reclaimed materials can sometimes reuse these.
Generally, car seat covers are a nylon/polyester blend that is treated with flame retardant chemicals. Covers may also contain plastic or metal snaps, hooks and eyes, elastic, rigid plastic tabs, or Velcro. Some models also have a place to store metal seat belt locking clips that are needed in some vehicles. Car seat covers are not recyclable at this time because of the flame-retardant chemicals used on them, and are not good candidates for creative reuse.
However, some car seat covers that are not heavily treated with flame retardant chemicals, can easily be recycled
A layer of soft foam beneath the cover to cushion the child, the comfort foam generally is treated with flame retardants, and is also not widely recyclable.
Car Seat Materials that are Recyclable:
Securing the harness straps around the child, the buckles contain both plastic and metal. These can be repurposed or ground to separate the metal from the plastic. The reclaimed metal, and possibly the plastic, is recyclable.
The chest clip buckles at arm pit level on the child to help keep the harness snug. The chest clip is plastic, often made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), which is recyclable .
A layer of hard foam lines most seats. According to the American Chemistry Council, Expanded Polystyrene (EPS) is the most common variety used in car seats. Expanded Polypropylene (EPP) and Expandable Polyethylene (EPE) are also used. Clean, hard foam can be recycled at most recycling facilities.
Plastic (various resin types)
The most common plastic in car seats is Impact Copolymer Propylene. Often a large portion of the shell is a single piece of polypropylene. A number of the following plastic components may be affixed to car seat shells including, but not limited to: handles, skid strips, shoulder belt guides, knobs, recline levers, cup holders, head rests, arm rests, detachable bases, level indictors and buttons. These components may be made of nylon, ABS, TPE, or other recyclable plastics
Metal (Steel, Aluminum)
Each seat contains a variety of metal reinforcement plates as well as screws, bolts and/or rivets. Some seats also contain steel reinforcement bars that are embedded in the shell, and/or aluminum side walls. Although the bulk of the seat is plastic, typically the most valuable recyclable material is the metal.
It is important to note that car seats are not made with recycled material because of strict safety requirements. However, the recycled plastics can be used to make items such as highchairs, step stools, or other child furniture for example, which is a better, more sustainable option than using plastic pellets made from virgin plastic.
Children’s car seats are a necessary safety requirement for your growing family. As important as they are during their product lifecycle, they present a challenge when it’s time to replace or dispose of them. Car Seat Recycling is working to solve the challenge of how to recycle a car seat by offering easy, effective, affordable recycling options. Contact us today to get your car seat recycling package.
Car Seat Recycling also works with retailers, manufacturers, and municipalities to create and manage programs to recycle car seats that give these bulk return programs more availability. The more opportunities consumers have to recycle care seats, the fewer car seats will end up in landfills, and ultimately – that is everyone’s goal.
If you’re interested in setting up a bulk program to help consumers recycle car seats, contact us today.