Child car restraints have a fixed life span of between 6 and 10 years.
Many people don’t know that child car restraints (car seats) have a fixed life span of between 6 and 10 years. Industry data suggests that up to 100,000 seats will expire each year creating a disposal problem equivalent to 400 tonnes of waste. The majority of this waste has been going to landfill, sold or donated (despite being expired) and includes materials containing brominated flame retardants (BFRs).
Initiative: SeatSmart – product stewardship options for end-of-life car seats
Client: Key industry stakeholders
Brief: Enable retailers and organisations to work together to deliver a consistent, nationwide approach to the responsible disposal of car seats and increase awarenewss of car seat expiry dates
3R Role: Project manager and on-going programme management
3R Approach: Industry collaboration
3R became involved with child car seat recycling when former 3R project manager and Mum of two, Michelle, was told to take an expired car seat to the dump. Based on 3R’s previous experience developing stewardship programmes and working with difficult to recycle products, we knew there could be a better environmental outcome than landfill.
3R researched the problem, the industry, overseas experience, the materials and options for recycling, and then secured funding and support for the project. 3R have also been the driving force behind moving the project to the next phase – national rollout.
The collaborative industry-wide project team was brought together by 3R Group to design and develop a product stewardship programme for expired car seats that will reduce waste to landfill and raise consumer awareness of expiry dates on car seats.
Appropriate disposal for any materials containing hazardous chemicals and providing a work stream for social enterprise or community recycling operations are key aims.
Led by 3R, the team worked through a series of milestones to confirm the recyclability of materials, understand costs and potential issues, develop a voluntary stewardship model, and prepare a business plan ready for roll out across New Zealand.
Positive outcomes for New Zealand
While the key manufacturers and retailers decided not to fund a stewardship model, 3R launched a user pays recycling programme to prove demand for such a scheme.
From project launch to September 2016, SeatSmart:
- diverted 3,865 car seats from landfill
- recycled approximately 13,500 kilograms of polypropylene plastic
- recycled approximately 1,900 kilograms of metal
- repurposed webbing straps through companies making bags from repurposed materials
SeatSmart will continue to:
- encourage the industry to adopt a stewardship approach
- raise awareness of car seat safety and expiry dates
- create jobs and support social enterprise through disassembly, recycling and repurposing of materials here in New Zealand
- reduced the volume of virgin materials imported into the country