Car Seats

Person helping child into car seat in a vehicle

What is it?

Car seat is a generic term used to describe specialized safety restraint apparatuses for infants & children while they are traveling in moving vehicles. In Saskatchewan, these seats are mandatory for children under 7 years of age, less than 145 cm (4'9") in height, and under 36 kg (80 lb.) in weight. [1]

What is the issue?

Car seats have expiry dates – found in the instruction manual or on the back / bottom of the seat. Typically, the useful life ranges from six to 12 years, depending on the manufacturer [2]. When a car seat expires, it’s no longer certified safe for use. Over time, car seats undergo stress - from their installation, regular use, and temperature changes (both hot & cold weather can impact the plastic) - thus weakening their integrity. Using an expired car seat can result in a ticket of $175 in Saskatchewan [3].

Another part of the issue is that car seats are built to be crash-resistant and are made up of different materials, which may include:

  • Fabric – straps, harnesses, covers, and padding.
  • Plastic – the main body of the seat, as well as clips and other smaller pieces that keep it all together. Some even use layers of Styrofoam.
  • Metal – the frame, buckles, nuts, bolts, rivets and welds

Car seats must be disassembled before anything can be done with them, which adds cost to recycling efforts.

Where can it go?

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you own a car seat or booster seat made before January 1, 2012, under Health Canada’s Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, you are not allowed to advertise, sell, or give it away. [2]

If the seat is newer and in near perfect condition, ONLY THEN, you can try selling it on the internet, at a garage sale, or consignment center to keep it in use. Alternatively, improve your karma and put it out into the world for free. Try donating the car seat or giving it away to others or agencies that need it. However, if it has been in an accident, damaged, or is past its expiry date, then do not do any of these things.

Currently, Crown Shred & Recycling in Regina and Prince Albert is the only business in the province accepting some car seats parts. They accept the hard plastic body from dissembled car seats for $5 per seat. The metal bits can be dropped off at any scrap metal dealer, but the strapping and foam have no current recycling options.

What happens after?

Crown Shred & Recycling groups car seat plastic with similar types of plastic at their Material Recovery Facility in Regina. It is then sold to a material broker and once again becomes a commodity on the open market.

The same process happens with the metal pieces at scrap metal dealers. They will group the same type of metals together and sell it when they find a favourable price & buyer.

How can I reduce?

  • Research your options first. Buy a durable, long lasting, car seat that can grow with your child. For example, some brands are able to change from rear facing to forward facing. If possible, use it for all your children instead of buying a new one each time.
  • Ask your friends and family to see if someone in their life could use it before the expiry date. Connecting with your community is a great way to share resources rather than generate waste.
  • IF IT IS NOT EXPIRED and in GOOD CONDITION, organizations that are family focused and/or non-profit may need it. For example, the Tetra Society of North America, which supports people with disabilities, modifies car seats to create assistive and mobility devices for clients. [5]

References:

[1] https://www.sgi.sk.ca/booster-seatbelt - accessed July 21, 2021
[2] https://tc.canada.ca/en/road-transportation/motor-vehicle-safety/children-s-car-seats-booster-seats-how-long-are-they-safe - accessed July 21, 2021
[3] https://www.sgi.sk.ca/carseats - accessed July 21, 2021
[4] https://crownshredandrecycling.com/drops-offs/ - accessed September 2, 2021
[5] https://tetrasociety.org/about/ - accessed August 4, 2021