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No charge for getting rid of car seats

Almost every part of a child’s car seat is recyclable – and in Hastings they can be recycled free of charge.

More than 40,000 child car restraints reach their ‘use by’ date each year in New Zealand.  Most end up in a landfill, despite more than 90 per cent of a typical seat being recyclable. 

Seatsmart is New Zealand’s only child car seat recycling programme.

“Many people aren’t aware that children’s car seats have a limited life span of six to 10 years,” says Toni Bye, SeatSmart programme manager. “For a variety of reasons the materials can degrade and weaken over time, which may affect how they would perform in an accident.

“People generally send their old seats to the landfill, which is a waste of resources, or give them away which could unnecessarily put a child at risk. With SeatSmart, expired or damaged seats can be safely taken out of circulation and the materials recycled or repurposed.”

While in many districts there is a $10 charge for recycling car seats, in Hastings there is no fee as the programme is supported by Hastings District Council.

“The recycling depot has always received enquiries about how to recycle old child seats making it the ideal drop off hub.  It is fantastic to see how these seats are recycled into so many useful products, which ultimately reduces the amount of waste we put into our landfill,” said council’s waste minimisation manager Dominic Salmon.

Hastings-based recycling specialists, 3R Group, runs Seatsmart.

“We like to think that landfill should be the last option, not the default,” says Mrs Bye. “So often, products that are put in the ‘too hard basket’ and simply dumped are highly recyclable.  Mattresses, tyres, paint, chemical containers, textiles, contaminated plastics, these are just some of the products that we tackle.”

So far SeatSmart has been introduced in six places: Auckland, Hamilton, Tauranga, Nelson, Christchurch and Hastings.  In the short time it has been operating nearly 4000 seats have been recycled.

The plastic from the seats is recycled into new products used in the building industry and metal parts are also easily recycled.   “The straps and webbing are used by Karkt NZ and The Green Collective who make handmade bags from recycled items.  Only fabric covers and polystyrene, around six per cent of a seat’s weight, are currently unable to be recycled – but we’re always open to ideas.”

Along with reducing waste to landfill, the programme also aims to improve awareness of car seat expiry dates. “Some people continue to use restraints after expiry because of a lack of understanding that exposure to sunlight, changes in temperature, and stress caused by accidents, can damage and weaken plastic,” said Mrs Bye.

“Giving people the choice of a positive disposal option for their seats will, we believe, improve outcomes for both the environment and children on our roads.”

SeatSmart is supported by Auckland Council, Baby on the Move, Hastings District Council, Plunket and the Department of Corrections, plus Sustainable Initiatives Fund in Christchurch.

In Hastings, anyone with damaged or expired child car seats can take them to the recycling area at the Henderson Road Refuse Transfer Station.  More information can be found on the SeatSmart website www.SeatSmart.co.nz.

4 October 2017

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