SeatCare: A National Scheme for Recycling Children’s Car Seats

Ethan Robinson 15/04/2023 Recycling
child's car seats

Australia is moving closer towards a circular economy, which aims to minimize the impact on the environment while ensuring the safety of children. Child car safety seats are essential items for parents, but due to strict safety standards, they have a short lifespan and generate a lot of waste.

Approximately 1 million car seats, boosters, and capsules are purchased each year in Australia, with about 20,000 ending up in landfill. To address this issue, a national recycling scheme for children’s car seats called SeatCare is being launched, which will recycle up to 90% of a child’s seat.

How SeatCare Works

SeatCare is a recycling scheme in Australia for reducing the amount of used children’s car seats that end up in landfills. It provides free drop-off locations for used car seats to be dismantled and recycled.

SeatCare is federally authorized under the Product Stewardship Act, which is a method of encouraging producers, users, and the government to manage the environmental impact of products and make them more beneficial for the community.

The seats are mostly made of plastic, metal, and textiles and are grouped and dismantled for recycling. The metal goes to a metal recycler partner who will prepare them for recycling. The plastic goes to a local plastics supplier who shreds them and creates new products. Polypropylene plastic can be recycled into low-value products such as cable covers.

Once the scheme begins, consumers can visit the SeatCare website to find their closest drop-off site.

SeatCare is collaborating with Workpower to create eight collection points in Western Australia and 25 across the country by the end of 2023. The scheme will prevent potentially unsafe and old seats from being re-used in the community.

SeatCare is also working with major car seat manufacturers and retailers to ensure they use sustainable materials and recycle their products when they reach the end of their use.

Children car seat dismantling at Outlook Environmental. Image by Outlook Australia.
Children’s car seat dismantling at Outlook Environmental. Photo by Outlook Australia.

Opportunities for Workers with Disabilities

SeatCare is not only focused on recycling but also on providing opportunities for workers with disabilities. Around ten employees with disabilities are currently involved in the scheme, where they are trained to use power and hand tools and identify brands and material types for sorting.

The workload is broken down into several areas, and each employee has a role to play in the dismantling and recycling of the seats. Workpower hopes to extend this opportunity to its other sites and grow its employees’ skills.

Challenges for Product Stewardship Schemes

To ensure product stewardship schemes are sustainable in the long term, it is important to consider not just the end-of-use but also how to extend their use. Having markets for recycled materials is critical to creating a circular economy.

According to the CEO of the Australian Council of Recycling, Suzanne Toumbourou, for a product stewardship scheme to be successful, it must be convenient and accessible to those who use the products. Producers and manufacturers must take responsibility for what they put into the market, and there must be a better market to support safe reuse.

Voluntary or Mandatory Scheme

SeatCare is a voluntary scheme, which means it encourages product stewardship without the need for regulation. A mandatory scheme would ensure a legal obligation on organizations and parties to take certain actions in relation to a product.

Requirements could be placed on parties using legislation, such as labelling products, making arrangements for recycling products at the end of their life, or requiring a refund to be applied to a product. Penalties may also apply if the law is breached.

Ms Broomhall, the Workpower CEO, believes a mandatory product stewardship scheme would have many benefits, such as the onus being back on the manufacturer and the shared responsibility of everybody contributing to the solution.

In conclusion, the SeatCare recycling scheme for children’s car seats in Australia is an important step towards a more sustainable future. Ultimately, the success of this recycling scheme and others like it will depend on the convenience and accessibility of the collection process, as well as the shared responsibility of manufacturers, sellers, and consumers to contribute to a more sustainable future.

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  • Ethan Robinson

    Ethan is a content editor with a background in environmental journalism. He’s an enthusiastic home cook and collector of vintage records.

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