Reusing and Recycling Child Car Seats
Fletcher Allen is launching the first initiative in Vermont to recycle old child car seats into items such as detergent bottles, culverts and other non-clear plastics. Fletcher Allen, in partnership with the Vermont Governor’s Highway Safety Program and Canusa Hershman Recycling Company of St. Albans, will host a free child car seat recycling drop-off and car seat inspection event on Sept. 15 at the Fanny Allen Campus in Colchester between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
By Ann Weinstein
Hey! I’ve got this car seat I’m not going to use again…can I sell/give it to my sister/cousin/neighbor/friend? What do I do with it? Can I recycle it?
This line and variants of it are a frequent refrain to the car seat hotline and at fitting stations across the state. We all want kids to be safe and many folks think any car seat is better than no car seat. While we’d love this to be true, it just isn’t the case. Car seats aren’t always safe to use. The use of used and expired seats should be challenged when it comes to safety.
Used car seats
A used car seat is safe when you can answer the following questions in an appropriate way:
Do I know the history of the seat? A seat that comes from a best friend or family member is a very different thing than a seat that is purchased at a garage sale – the history of the seat is available. If the history of the seat is unknown, do not use it.
Has the seat ever been in a crash? If it has, discard and do not use.
Is the seat within its expiration date? (Usually 6 years from date of manufacture – check your owner’s manual for information on your seat.) If it’s not, it’s time for a new seat.
Does the seat have all of its parts? The owner’s manual will have a listing of all parts. If parts are missing, do not use. Call the manufacturer for replacement parts and use a different seat until those parts can be safely installed.
Sometimes expired seats are seen at our fitting stations and inspections. When talking with parents and care givers, we frequently hear, “I don’t believe that I need a new one – it’s just marketing on behalf of the manufacturer in order to get me to buy another.” This is simply not true – seats have good reasons for their expiration dates.
Car seats live in extreme environments, the very hot and very cold of a car. These temperature swings cause the plastic, over time, to become brittle and fail, which can cause the harness to pull through the shell of the car seat and eject the child. The following link is a crash test of a 10 year old seat.
If your seat is expired, STOP!!! DO NOT USE IT.
So, you’ve reached this point in the article and you’re saying to yourself…”Well, now I’ve got seats I can’t use…What do I do?”
The BeSeatSmart child passenger safety program is beginning a recycling program for car seats. Every car seat has a minimum of 5 lbs. of #5 plastic in it, and typically has more like 10-15 lbs. All that plastic currently goes into the landfill and will still be there 500 years from now.
We want to be better stewards of the environment for our children and future generations. Recycling large plastic items like car seats is part of that responsible stewardship. Canusa-Hershman Recycling Company has graciously agreed to be the end source for the plastic and metals, and is partnering with us to make recycling car seats happen. Car seats that are taken in will be chipped and turned into items such as detergent bottles, culverts and other non-clear plastics.
To recycle your seat, you can help by stripping the cover, harness and any foam padding off of the seat. While we will take seats with covers, a pre-stripped seat allows us to assist families by inspecting seats and providing replacements where necessary. Bring your seat to our inspection at Fanny Allen in Colchester on Sept. 15. If you are not able to attend, any permanent fitting station will also take seats to be recycled during Child Passenger Safety Week, Sept.16 to 22.
For more information, visit www.beseatsmart.org.
Ann Weinstein is a Child Passenger Safety Specialist at the Office of Community Health Improvement at Fletcher Allen.
How to Recycle Your Car Seat
Pictures courtesy of Legacy Health, Portland, Oregon.