12 Jan 2017

Car seat recycling saves mass of plastic from landfill

8:39 pm on 12 January 2017

A recycling project that dismantles old car seats has saved thousands of kilos of plastic from the landfill.

Every year an estimated 40,000 car seats end up in landfills around the country.

Car restraints awaiting disposal

Every year, an estimated 40,000 car seats end up in landfills around the country. Photo: Supplied

Launched in April 2015, the Seatmart Child Car Seat Recycling Programme works with inmates to dismantle the seats, which have a lifespan of six to 10 years.

Currently there are no mandatory regulations that require manufacturers to take responsibility and to pay for the safe disposal of their products.

Communications manager Toni Bye said 90 percent of the seats could be recycled, with each seat having about 3.5kg of plastic.

"They're problematic in landfill because they don't compact. They're not harmful as such, they do have some brominated fire retardants on the fabric but it's not at levels that would be harmful, but it's just really a waste of resources.

"About 90 percent of the seat is actually recyclable and just to send that to landfill just seems absolutely crazy, when it's possible for us to take that seat, take it apart and create new materials with that," she said.

Parts from carseats are recycled.

Ninety percent of the materials in a car seat can be recycled. Photo: Supplied

The scheme had found new uses for 4000 seats in the seven months it had been running, she said.

The plastic was used in the building industry, scrap metal merchants took the metal and the straps were used to make recycled bags.

The programme operates in six centres - Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Hastings, Nelson and Christchurch.

Ms Bye said the scheme was appealing because people were growing increasingly aware of the need to dispose of their items responsibly.

"Particularly when it's something like a car seat, it's not something that just easily goes in the rubbish bin. The idea is that they often look fine still but we know from the industry that plastic degrades over time so that's why they have the expiry date," she said.

"And there is very much that awareness that people don't want to see those car seats being kept in circulation when they are expired or if they've been in a car accident, they want to make sure that those seats are actually coming out of circulation, so that's really important to people too," she said.

In 2017, the project was looking to expand to Wellington, Dunedin, Taupo and possibly Blenheim from April, but that depended on funding, which the team was looking for at the moment.

"When someone takes a car seat into one of our collection sites they pay a $10 fee, that's a recommended fee. That helps us with the operational side of things, so moving the seats around, taking them to where they get dismantled, then moving them onto the recyclers and so on.

"We've been very lucky to have some great funding from Auckland Council and from Hastings District Council and from the Sustainable Initiative Fund in Christchurch, that's really helped with the education, marketing, helping us with the website and so on. But most of that funding is due to run out in April, so we're definitely looking for some more sponsorship at this stage," she said.

The unwanted seats can be dropped off to Baby On The Move stores in participating centres.