Trojan Kawana of LIFT Youth Employment makes short work of dismantling a child car seat for the SeatSmart programme.

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Dismantling child car seats isn’t the first thing which comes to mind when finding work experience, but a group of young men and women from LIFT Youth Employment have been taking it in their stride.

Between them, the Hawke’s Bay youths spent the past five weeks – one day a week – working with Hastings-based sustainability experts 3R Group, which runs the SeatSmart child car seat recycling programme. Together, Trojan Kawana, Uriah Tamati-Smith, Marika Katane, Panaomealeli Suai, Paremaina Wiperi, and Cullen Waina have put their problem-solving skills to the test dismantling expired or damaged child car seats so the components can be recycled.

3R Group operations manager Steve Nicholls says taking a seat apart is much more challenging than one might expect, and he was impressed by their work.

“Having done it myself I know how tough it can be. With so many different brands and models of seats there is no one way to go about it. It’s just a matter of picking up a screwdriver, hammer or saw and applying some problem solving,” he says.

The team from LIFT have made short work of dozens of seats, enabling the plastic, metal and straps to be recycled or reused.

LIFT business manager Graeme Ewart says the young people also learned about the purpose of the programme – to prevent recyclable material going to landfill – and see it as their way to give back.

“This is not only paid work for them but is meaningful because they get to use their hands to achieve a very worthwhile purpose, rather than sitting at home. They have been loving it.

“The young men and women we deal with have very few opportunities to get the ball rolling in terms of work experience. The aim of LIFT is to help them get that as well as to get them into fulltime work and give them life skills,” Graeme says.

Trojan Kawana says he’s found the job of dismantling the seats easy to learn. “I’ve found it pretty cruzy – it’s not difficult. I like that the seats are being recycled and not wasting anything, it’s good,” he says.

He’s looking forward to joining the Army in early October along with some of the other young men from LIFT.

Steve says partnering with a social enterprise like LIFT is part of the ethos of 3R Group and its programmes – to have the maximum possible positive impact on society and the environment. “We partner with social enterprises where we can for dismantling which expands the benefit of the programme beyond simply diverting materials from landfill to create a broader social good.”

Every year around 100,000 child car seats end up in landfill, despite up to 70% of the seat’s material (by weight) being recyclable. The programme also works to educate the public around the fact that the seats have expiry dates.

SeatSmart has 39 collection sites in 10 regions around the country, including at the Henderson Road Refuse Transfer Station (Recycling Area) in Hastings. Support from the Hastings District Council means the fee to recycle a seat in Hastings is reduced to $10.

For more information visit www.seatsmart.co.nz