We overlook expiration dates on a lot of things, but a car seat is one expiration date that should definitely not be ignored.
There's an end date on all car seats for many reasons — most are made from plastic, and plastic tends to break down, for one — and it really is a safety measure to get rid of them when the manufacturer recommends.
But since you can't re-sell or even donate your child's old car seat for another family to use, what the heck are you supposed to do with it? Well, you actually have some really great options.
Target recently teamed with with TerraCycle for a 2-week event that allowed customers to bring in their old car seats to receive a 20 percent discount on a new one. Target and TerraCycle aim to recycle 700,000 pounds of car seat materials so they don't end up in landfills.
A Target discount and you get to help the planet? Can't beat that with a stick. No word on whether Target will run this event again, but there are other great trade-in opportunities that happen. Babies 'R' Us locations have hosted them in the past.
Use your expired car seat to make a difference in the world with the BabyEarthRENEW program. Although you pay for the shipping to get your expired car seat to their facility, it's well worth the cost — BabyEarth takes apart each seat and sends the materials to developing countries, who can use the straps, buckles and other pieces for new purposes. What they can't pass on, they send to certified recycling centers. BabyEarth also accepts other broken-down baby gear, such as highchairs and bouncers.
If neither of these are an option for you, the next step is to get on the phone to your local children's stores — consignment stores in your area, in particular, will often offer a weekend during the year when you can bring in your expired car seat, charging you a small donation that goes to a local charity for them to dispose of it properly. Most recycling centers will also take expired car seats as well. They often have requirements about how the car seat should arrive (straps and buckles removed, for example) and may charge you a small fee (less than $10) for the service.
The last resort, when it comes to disposing of an expired car seat, is to simply throw it away. But, be sure to take some precautions before setting your expired car seat out at the curb with your weekly garbage pick-up. Cut the straps on the seat or remove them all together to insure that nobody will snag it from outside and take it home to use. Even if you take it to your local garbage center yourself, be sure to make it unusable, so that another family isn't tempted to use what probably still looks like a perfectly functioning car seat for their child.
Originally published July 2012. Updated May 2017.
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