Baby & Children Car Seats – How to Dispose or Reuse?

I’ve been asked a few times over the last 2 months if I had seen the wording on Health Canada’s website regarding the giving or reselling of used car seats since the new car seat regulations came into force January 2012. In December 2011, Health Canada published this statement regarding updates to child car seats and requirements from car seat manufactures.  But it was the wording on the Health Canada website that had many parents of local Facebook groups concerned which is how I become involved with deciphering the language used on their website which included:  “Health Canada, which is responsible for the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act (CCPSA), requires that seats for sale (or giving or loaning) must meet the criteria set out by CMVSS. It is not lawful to sell, distribute or advertise a seat that doesn’t meet the current criteria of CMVSS.” But it was the next statement found here that includes “Any person who sells, distributes, or gives away products not complying with the current legislation is breaking the law in Canada. By selling or giving away an item that poses a hazard, a person could also be liable in a civil court of law” that has parents stressed about breaking the law if they gave or sold a used car seat (that wasn’t expired)! My question when I spoke with Health Canada last week was asking them “if parents have a car seat and it’s not expired, are they not allowed to resell or give it to a friend/parent/sister to use”?  I mentioned that parents are not used to being told to put something into a landfill with our green minded parenting focus. The official answer from Health Canada is they hold children’s safety first and would like to see children in car seats meeting the new regulations set forth Jan, 2012. But, since this doesn’t help the thousands of parents wondering what to do with car seats that haven’t expired and taking up space in their garage if they are finished using them, there is another option. Health Canada did say that if a parent contacts the manufacturer of the car seat with a model number and serial number and the manufacturer approves that this car seat still meets the new requirements, then it’s okay to resell or give your sister (for example) your car seat. And if your sister/friend/person that purchases the 2nd hand seat is in an accident down the road and injury occurs, you are no longer liable for being sued, etc.  – the manufacturer is now liable for the safety of that car seat. If the manufacturer doesn’t know what these updated car seat safety regulations are – here is a link as provided by Health Canada for you to send them.  Click here.  And while you are talking with the car seat manufacturer – I would recommend putting pressure on them and asking the following questions:

~ is the interior of your car seats made from recyclable material? (I did talk with Transport Canada in my research and apparently different car seat brands are better with using recyclable materials than others)
~ when will they (the manufacturer) be starting a car seat recycling program for car seats they manufacture?
~ would they consider the option of being shipped back the car seat if parents have kept the original box?

Now all of this addresses the issue of parents having car seats that have not met the expiration date. What do parents do if the car seat HAS expired? Bad news on this one. Unless you live close to a recycling depot like our friends at Gibsons Recycling Depot who take used car seats for a very inexpensive rate, and look after stripping down and recycling the car seats for you, pressure needs to be put on Environment Canada and within your own municipality for car seat recycling programs. Of course I agree that kid’s safety and car seats needs to be the number one priority, but the massive amounts of waste that results from parents dropping off car seats in the landfills is not a satisfying answer. How many car seats do your children go through over the course of their life?  Anywhere from 2-4 with many people using infant seats, rear/front facing seats, then booster seats. Why isn’t there a country wide recycling program?  And smaller car seat recycling centers that ask parents to strip down car seats (cut off straps, rip off foam, etc.) should NOT be asking parents to do this?  Why?  The foam within car seats contains flame retardant chemicals that will become air born and ingested if you are doing this without training. A parent trying to do the right thing and strip down a car seat to see if the plastic inside, etc. can be recycled should not be asked to ingest toxic chemicals – this is something that a trained professional should look after.

I loved having my talk this morning with Barb from Gibsons Recycling Depot this morning. They are a West Coast recycling depot that is truly changing the earth and encouraging consumers to be responsible for the items they bring into their life.  She agreed with my points on car seats and agrees that consumers need to speak up and ask our communities for car seat recycling programs.

I personally would have loved to have seen more interaction between Health Canada and Environment Canada regarding regulating baby products and their disposal when they reviewed car seat safety standards in 2010. When parents are being encouraged to not reuse and recycle baby and children’s products due to safety, we need to give them options to lesson the impact on the environment with the waste these actions will cause. The largest ripple effect I could see being levied by the government would be to research the car seat manufacturers that DO use recyclable pieces when making car seats and give them a green star and spread the word throughout the country and have their be a cost reduction if parents make the decision to purchase and use these car seats. Then give parents a place to dispose of their car seats. The cheapest option I could see if having parents return (ship) expired car seats back to the manufacturer to reuse the parts.

I personally found the strong wording on the Health Canada website frustrating because at every level of our parenting journey, we are asked to be accountable for everything to do with our children’s safety. These are not things we are taught or educated on before we give birth to our beautiful children. Of course we want them to be safe, but when you are juggling trying to feed them healthy meals, reduce their chemical exposure, find products that don’t contain toxic ingredients, etc., being responsible for one more thing like car seat safety just doesn’t seem fair. And it doesn’t seem fair to our environment to take the easy way out and ditch them in the land fill. I’m thankful that Health Canada took the time to answer all my questions and although they do recommend using new car seats that meet all new safety requirements, I’m thankful they agreed to give parents the option to call the manufacturer to check if not-yet-expired car seats meet specifications so they can be reused or sold.  Thank you for putting the responsibility of car seat safety back to those who have the expertise…the car seat manufacturers!  But there is a ton of work to be done and without the public’s encouragement back to car seat manufacturers, this problem won’t change. Tell your car seat manufacturer that having a method to dispose of your car seat when it’s expired is important to you. Take action and call!  And if the car seat manufacturer doesn’t know if a) car seats they manufacture meets the new specification set forth here or b) can’t answer if their car seats are made from recyclable materials – we need to know who these companies are!  Post the brand to my fan page: Mommy Footprint and let’s find out which companies are ready to help buffer the environmental  impact with car seat recycling!

I’ve tried to break down my discussions with Heath Canada in easy to understand wording, but I’d like to include Heath Canada specific recommendations on car seats so that their voice is documented. Here were my initial questions:

Q1) What is Health Canada telling parents to do with car seats that have not expired and who want to sell them or give them to someone else?

Look for the date of manufacture printed on your car seat. If you own a car seat or booster seats made before January 1, 2012, you can still safely use it. However, under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act you may not be able to advertise, sell or give it (including lending) away because it may not meet the latest requirements set out by Health Canada and Transport Canada. For more information, go to: www.tc.gc.ca/eng/roadsafety/safedrivers-childsafety-faq-1131.htm.

Q2) How can parents meet the criteria set out by Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standards in order to sell or give their car seats to someone else before they are set to expire?

For car seats manufactured prior to January 1, 2012, parents and caregivers should contact the manufacturer to find out whether or not their specific model is compliant with the new requirements. Any seat with a manufacturing date of January 1, 2012, or later will meet the new requirements.

Q3) Is Health Canada telling parents that car seats for which they are no longer needed and are not expired have to go into the landfill? If so, what should parents do with car seats that are sitting in the garage? Is there a place where parents can bring their old car seats to be safely recycled?

Consumers should contact their municipal recycling program to see if they accept car seats.

There is no necessity to replace a child seat that hasn’t expired unless the child seat was in a car that was involved in a collision. Even if your child wasn’t in the child seat when the accident occurred, the child seat could be damaged. The previous standards have provided a high level of safety for children for many years and will continue to provide protection throughout the useful life of a child restraint.

I know that many of my readers are from the US so I called the Transport office for the United States and the rules for car seat reselling or giving away is very simple – if the car seat is over 6 years old, it’s considered expired and should not be resold or given to a friend. If the car seat is under 6 years old, there are no regulations on resell or giving away. There isn’t a Government supported program for car seat recycling. Again, it’s a topic that needs to be addressed with manufacturers.

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4 Responses to Baby & Children Car Seats – How to Dispose or Reuse?

  1. Anna@GreenTalk February 22, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    A while ago, I faced this very issue with my son’s booster seat. I found very few places in the US recycle but listed a few ideas about recycling them. See http://www.green-talk.com/2010/04/28/recycling-car-seats/. It links to an article about a woman who started a recycling car seat program in a town near me. She provided the form letter to use for those who wish to take on a similar task. Anna

  2. Amber February 22, 2012 at 11:53 pm #

    I have an old infant seat in my crawl space, that I was saving for that elusive (and unlikely) baby number three. I honestly had no idea that regulations had changed. When you’ve been around the block before, you’re even less likely to do new research, which is another frustration. How am I supposed to know about changing regulations?

  3. suzanne February 23, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Hi Amber! I know in the US, car seats expire after 6 years, so with the age spread between your oldest child and elusive baby #3…I would assume the infant car seat has expired. You should get the model number and type from the car seat and call the manufacturer to inquire if it’s still a safe seat. Based on that information, you’ll know if the car seat should be permanently retired. If it is, the Gibsons Recycling Depot will take your seat for only $3, strip it down and recycle the parts for you.

  4. Hazel March 15, 2012 at 7:15 pm #

    http://www.pacificmobiledepots.com/
    Pacific mobile depots collects infant car seats at three locations in Vancouver/North Van and Coquitlam every third saturday – check the website for locations and dont forget all the metal must be removed – dont try to remove the plastic foam its toxic.

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