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New Zealand’s Child Car Seat Recycling Programme Hits 100k Milestone

The country’s only child car seat recycling programme has hit a major milestone after collecting over 100,000kg of plastic and metal for recycling.

The achievement came shortly after celebrating five years of operation, and some 19,500 seats diverted from landfill for dismantling and recycling.

SeatSmart Programme Manager Toni Bye says it has grown in leaps and bounds – from a handful of collection sites during its trial phase to 39 sites from Auckland to Dunedin. “Despite not being able to collect any seats during lockdowns, we’ve had our best year yet,” Toni says.
The growth of the programme is evidence the public is starting to look beyond the “traditional recyclables” that go in kerbside collections, she says.

“People are really keen to have alternatives to landfill,” she says. “It feels good to not only save a bulky item like a car seat from filling up our dumps, but knowing that you’re creating employment, saving virgin plastics from being imported and seeing unwanted materials like straps repurposed into new products.”

SeatSmart also aims to raise awareness of the limited life span of child car seats. “Most seats have expiry dates of between six and 10 years, due to wear and tear from temperature extremes in cars, changes in safety standards, and the loss of safety instructions and labels. Even things as simple as food and drink clogging buckles or latches, and cleaning products corroding components are factors,” Toni says.

Baby on the Move has been hugely important in the success of the programme since its inception, she says, with 12 franchises around the country now acting as collection sites.
Baby on the Move Director Fena Bavastro says she is proud to have the brand involved with SeatSmart. “We just love that we can be part of the programme and love what SeatSmart is doing by reducing the number of seats going to landfill. I will definitely continue to support this work,” she says.

Councils around the country have also put their support behind the programme, with 17 offering subsidies to increase access to it. “SeatSmart, through recycling seats and promoting seat expiry dates, contributes to these councils’ zero waste goals and road safety programmes and we’re grateful for their support.”

SeatSmart, which is run by recycling experts 3R Group, aims to tackle the issue of around 100,000 child car seats going to landfill each year in New Zealand, Toni says. “We’re encouraged by how many people are choosing to recycle their seats and ensure that expired seats are kept out of circulation.”

The programme has a strong social aspect. “In addition to the road safety message, we also aim to maximise employment opportunities through dismantling,” Toni says.

“We use social enterprise where possible, helping to employ people who have a disability or are disadvantaged or marginalised. And we provide dismantling for Department of Corrections community work programmes, which provides useful indoor work for offenders.”

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