So, what is SeatSmart?

Imagine 100,000 car seats sitting end to end…

They would stretch from Auckland’s CBD to Pukekohe. That’s the minimum number of car seats that expire every year in New Zealand.

When a 3R Group staff member was advised that disposal was the only option for her expired car seat, she was pretty disappointed. For her, as with many of the 3R staff, landfill should be the last resort, not the only option. So, she took the issue to her colleagues at 3R and they decided that they could change the outcome.

Thanks to those discussions the SeatSmart project was launched.

When did it start?

The SeatSmart programme launched on 1 April 2016.  It followed the 18-month initial project which looked at options for diverting car seats from landfill and a 12 month pilot in Auckland, Hamilton, Hastings and Nelson.

Why recycle?

Our programme has two valuable aims: one, to reduce waste to landfill, because at the moment valuable resources are being unnecessarily dumped in landfills around New Zealand. And two, to improve awareness of car seat expiry dates, and therefore improve road safety for Kiwi kids.

Many car seat owners are simply unaware that most seats have expiry dates of between 6 and 10 years.  We know that others continue to use seats 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.  Over time, safety standards also change and key safety information may be lost or become unreadable.

We’re confident that giving people the option of recycling their seats will improve outcomes for both the environment and kids on our roads.

Finding solutions isn’t impossible, it just requires someone like 3R with the right combination of skills to pull the process and the people together.

Working with great partners like our supporters means that consumers get to benefit from programmes like SeatSmart that are making a difference to our environment and to our kids.

What happens to the seats?

We aim to maximise the social benefit of recycling through our dismantling process. Due to the volumes and the growing complexity of the seats we get through the programme, a mix of dismantling services are required:

  • 3R Group – 3R are the founders and operators of SeatSmart. Our staff regularly do the ‘heavy lifting’ on the dismantling (using power tools, etc.)
  • Social Enterprises – paid and unpaid services that provide employment or work experience for people who have a disability or are disadvantaged or marginalised; and
  • Department of Corrections community work programmes – a free dismantling service providing useful indoor work for offenders, used for a limited number of seats. Community work programmes provide opportunities for offenders to make amends to their communities, and learn new skills and work habits.

Once the seats are dismantled, we send the materials to the appropriate end use.  Currently 75% of the seat materials (by weight) are recycled or repurposed:

  • Plastics – the majority of plastics are recycled in New Zealand
  • Metal – these parts are simply taken to local metal recyclers
  • Straps – straps from the harnesses are used in the production of recycled bags

We would love to reach 80% or even 90% of materials recycled.  Two opportunities are through improved labelling of plastic materials and by finding a use for the fabric.  The fabric is not the easiest material, shape or condition to reuse but we love coming up with innovative solutions, so watch this space!

Where does 3R fit in?

3R Group are the programme managers and we’re all about finding solutions for products that are hazardous or difficult to recycle. They are generally items that often fall into the “too hard” basket and we work with individual companies or industry players to find solutions.

Basically, we specialise in designing and delivering programmes that help businesses and consumers recycle or repurpose these products at their “end-of-life”.

SeatSmart is one of the recycling or stewardship programmes we manage.

So, what next?

If you have an unwanted or expired car seat you can take it to one of the collection sites and we’ll do the rest.  It’s really easy!

If you want to support SeatSmart please get in touch with the team.

Or you can read more about who funded the original project, who was involved, what the aims were and what was achieved.

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