Car seats have an expiration of 6 years, on average, from the date of manufacturer. Once this expiration date has been reached, the seat is no longer safe to use. Throwing away a car seat adds a bulky mix of plastic, fabric, and metal to the landfill.
Fortunately, 90% of the materials that make up a car seat are recyclable.
How do I recycle my old car seat?
The first step is to find out where to have the seat recycled. This will depend on what services exist in your area. Here are your options:
Look for a Car Seat Recycling Program in Your Area. This is the easiest way to recycle your seat, if a program is available near you. These programs accept the entire seat with no disassembly needed. For example, in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) there is a program called REseat which offers drop off locations for old car seats. To look for a local program, search Google for the following: (city or area) car seat recycling program
Contact your Local Recycling Center. The most bulky pieces of a car seat can often be sent off for recycling just as you would other household items. Call the recycling center to find out the details. In most cases you need to take apart the car seat. You should cut up the safety straps (so they can’t be reused) and remove any fabric or soft padding. The bulky plastic and metal pieces can then be picked up curbside or at nearby recycling bins. To find your local recycling center’s contact info, search for this in Google: (city or area) recycling center
Mail Your Seat in to a Recycling Program. This has some advantages: you don’t need to deal with taking apart the car seat, and they’ll recycle every bit of the seat they can. On the downside, you do need to pay the shipping cost to send out the seat. I recommend UPS ground as it should be the cheapest method for a big, heavy seat. The BabyEarth RENEW program accepts mail-ins from anywhere, or drop offs at their Austin, TX location.
Which new car seats are fully recyclable?
Currently, there is only one model of car seat that is fully recyclable through the manufacturer – the Clek Foonf. Through the Clek recycling program you can pay $20 to send your seat in for recycling and you’ll receive a $20 coupon off a new Clek seat in return.
I expect more manufacturers to follow suit and offer their own recycling programs in the future. In the meantime, remember that nearly all the materials used in current seats can be recycled if you take a bit of time to find the best recycling method.