Baby on the Move Nelson owner Russell O'Donnell. The store is one of the first SeatSmart collection sites, having been part of the trial before the programme was launched.

Baby on the Move Nelson owner Russell O’Donnell. The store is one of the first SeatSmart collection sites, having been part of the trial before the programme was launched.

Two councils in the Top of the South have put their support behind child car seat recycling, by offering subsidies to help make it more affordable and reduce waste.

The Nelson City Council and Tasman District Council are each offering a subsidy of $15 per seat for residents in their regions wanting to recycle their damaged, expired or unwanted seats through the SeatSmart programme. The subsidy, which takes effect from February 1, will mean the cost to recycle a seat is $10, with the subsidy limited to one seat per household per year.

Nelson City Council Group Manager Clare Barton says the Council has a strong focus on avoiding or reducing waste. “We’re delighted to support the SeatSmart children’s car seat recycling programme.  Our subsidy will bring the cost of recycling down, as well as encouraging responsible disposal and supporting good quality recycling,” she says.

Tasman District Council Team Leader – Stormwater and Waste Management David Stephenson says $15 is a small price to pay to help families recycle their car seat. “We know that these seats are widely used in our community and that they cannot be safely used after their expiry date. Recycling and reusing the components of the car seats saves landfill space and makes a much better use of valuable resources.”

Seats can be taken to Baby on the Move Nelson, which has been the collection site in the region since 2015. The store was one of the first collection sites in the country, taking part in the initial trial before the programme was officially launched.

SeatSmart was created by Hastings-based recycling specialist 3R Group and has seen strong growth since launching in April 2016, with 32 sites around New Zealand. The increased demand meant in November 2018 the cost of recycling a seat had to be increased to $25.

Programme manager Toni Bye says the increased demand, and complexity of the seats, meant 3R Group had to review the dismantling process. “In line with 3R’s ethos of maximising the environmental and social impact of recycling programmes, the decision was made to use social enterprises for the majority of the work,” Toni says.

The programme had been using the Department of Corrections Community Work programmes to provide free dismantling, however the increased complexity and volume meant this was no longer feasible for all seats. “Using social enterprises helps give paid work to people who have a disability, are disadvantaged or marginalized, increasing the benefit of bringing your seat in for recycling,” Toni says.

SeatSmart aims to help address the more than 40,000 seats which reach their expiry date each year in New Zealand. Along with reducing waste to landfill, the programme also aims to improve awareness of car seat expiry dates. “Some people continue to use restraints 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,” Toni says.

The plastic from the seats is recycled into new products used in the building industry and metal parts are also easily recycled.  Straps from the seats are used to make recycled bags by organisations that include Nelson-based The Green Collective.

“Reusing and repurposing products traditionally destined for landfill led to the development of new products for us,” says The Green Collective owner Emma Saunders. “The items we love to reuse, like the seat belt straps are incredibly hard wearing, and have many many years of life left in them.”