Thanks to a wonderful group of Bellingham Mamas, I recently learned that car seats expire. Somewhere on your car seat-usually the side-there is a label with the model number and expiration date. Typically, a car seat will expire 5-9 years from the date of manufacture (resources by brand below). The reason for the expiration date listed by manufacturing companies consisted of the following: length of time between updates and improvements providing child safety, wear/weakening of straps, and possible degradation of plastic. I would like to note here that many manufacturers instructions were to wash straps by hand only, also for safety reasons (refer to your car seat instruction book).
If you should happen to have an expired car seat, as we did, the next question is: what do I do with it? The thought of tossing the car seat in a landfill was bothering me, so I did some research. If you live near Whatcom County, I am thrilled to let you know Relectronics, a local non-profit, accepts “almost anything plastic and metal” and this includes car seats. By bringing these expired or damaged items to Relectronics, you prevent your car seat from sitting in a landfill, and you help support a wonderful non-profit.
Here’s what you need to do to recycle your car seat:
1. Remove the cover, all straps and foam from the car seat.
2. Cut the straps so there is no way for them to be re-used. Also cut all metal and plastic parts away from the straps and recycle the metal and plastic (if they are accepted by the company you take the car seat to-they are accepted at Relectronics).
3. Next, it’s a good idea to write expired all over the car seat, or even break it so it is obvious it should not be used.
These images are of our expired car seat. Crumbs included just to keep it real. ;0)
If you do not have a resource for recycling your car seat:
1. Consider checking with your local plastics or electronics recycling facility. I have frequently taken electronic items to Relectronics for recycling, but was unaware that I could take my car seat until I simply thought to ask. When Travis at Relectronics explained that they could accept “almost anything plastic and metal,” I began to realize the array of items I could recycle with them, including my expired car seat.
Note: If you have any suggestions or resources for recycling car seats outside of Whatcom County, you may send them to me. I would be happy to look into your suggestions, as well as update this post with any new information. I would love to include options for other areas besides Whatcom County.
2. Toys R Us has a Great Trade In Event where you can bring in items that you no longer need, or are no longer safe; and they provide you a discount on a purchase in return. However, I do not know that they recycle the seats. I emailed the following question to find out, and have listed it with their response below.
“What happens to the items that are brought in for the Great Trade In Event? Are they thrown out or recycled? Are you able to recycle(not reuse) car seats or other items containing metals and plastics? Thank you in advance, Sarah”
Response on 11/3/2012:
“Dear Ms. Sarah:
Thank you for contacting The “R” Us Family. We appreciate your interest regarding of how your trade-in items will be handled.
The “Great Trade-In” event places an emphasis on specific baby products, such as cribs and car seats that, due to safety concerns, may not be the best candidates to be handed down or resold. Beyond recalls, certain older and used baby items can be potentially unsafe for a variety of reasons, including damage or lack of compliance with recent advances in product safety standards.
Items that are brought in during the Great Trade-in Event are disposed of and/or returned to the manufacturer. They are not available for donation, repurchase or return. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.
If you have any further questions or concerns, please feel free to contact our offices at 1-800-ToysRUs (1-800-869-7787). Anyone who answers may be able to assist you.
Thank you once again, Ms. Sarah, for contacting the “R” Us family, and we look forward to serving you in the future.
The “R” Us Team”
Finally, if you do not have a way to dispose of your car seat, and you must put it in the trash, you will still want to follow the above steps to be sure the expired car seat is not used.
If you found this information useful, please share it with other moms so we can spread the word about expired car seats, as well as build up resources for those outside of Whatcom County. Also, please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions* or suggestions.
*Please contact your car seat manufacturer if you have any questions regarding the expiration date of your car seat, or if you need to purchase new straps because you have machine washed your current straps.
Car Seat Manufacturer Contact List:
Graco: Car Seats Have Expirations Too!
Britax: Car Seat Basics, Retired Car Seats
Britax Customer Service Contact Page as well as information regarding the average life of their car seats (scroll to Hot Topics at the bottom of the page).
Car Seat Safety Guidelines, also includes contact information.
Peg Perego: Frequently Asked Questions (scroll to the second comment at the bottom of the article for the response regarding expiration dates). Contact information is on the right side of the Frequently Asked Questions Page.
Cosco: Frequently Asked Questions
Maxi-Cosi: Frequently Asked Questions: Is My Older Car Seat Still Safe To Use?
Click Here to look-up Car Seat Recalls.