There are several reasons you need to get a new car seat for your child. One reason is that they outgrew the seat. Other reasons could be because it expired, is broken, or you want a new one for your baby. The way to properly dispose of it mainly depends on why you are getting rid of it. To begin with, you can’t donate an expired car seat, but you can’t leave an old car seat in the trash.
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Is it safe to reuse a car seat?
Before donating your child’s car seat, there are a few essential things to consider.
Make sure that the car seat has not yet expired, has not been recalled, and is in great condition to make another baby safe.
Let’s cover each area in detail:
1. Not expired
For most of us, we only expect foods or medicine to expire, at least that’s what makes sense, but plastics weaken, and the plastic used to make seats can degrade over time and become brittle, potentially making the seat less safe.
The expiration date can be checked on the seat’s label or the manufacturer’s instructions (or if you can’t find the date, give the manufacturer a call).
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), if you are unsure, use six years from the manufacture date.
2. Not recalled
A car seat gets recalled because it has been proven to have defects that are unsafe.
If your baby’s car seat is affected by a recall, stop using it immediately and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for repairing or replacing the seat.
You can find the latest recalls at NHTSA.gov/recalls or sign up for recall alerts on your mobile.
Also, please confirm that the seat still has a label with the date of manufacture and model number, which allows the next user to check for future recalls.
3. Not damaged
We’re not worried about stains or any minimal proof that the seat was used, but we want to ensure that the car seat’s frame is still in excellent condition to make another baby safe on the road.
Any cracking of plastic or missing part is not a good sign, and you should make sure no one would think otherwise and let their baby use it.
When disposing of a broken car seat, please write a clear message on the seat like “Do not use” or “Expired” so that it stays in the disposal bin.
4. Hasn’t been in a crash
If the car seat has been in a crash, regardless if it is a minor one, it should be properly discarded.
Any crash can damage the structure and integrity of a car seat, meaning it may not provide enough protection in the event of another crash.
We can’t risk it with our kids like that; it is better safe than sorry.
5. Pass it on responsibly and properly
If the car seat checks out to be good and you are confident the car seat could still make another baby safe, then make sure to give the next parent a copy of the seat’s instruction manual so they can install it correctly.
If you don’t have the original manual, see if you can download a copy on the manufacturer’s website.
What to do with an old infant car seat?
After determining that the car seat is still in great condition to be used by another baby, you have several options.
Here are some ways that might help.
Car seat trade-in programs
There are two major car seat trade-in programs in the US.
Twice a year, Target hosts a car seat trade-in event that gives an opportunity for moms to get rid of their old car seats in exchange for a 20% off coupon good for a new car seat, car seat base, travel system, stroller, or select baby home gear.
Most Target stores participate in the program. To find a participating store, click here.
Walmart previously hosted a car seat recycling event in 2019 but has not updated its website to indicate any future trade-in events.
Recycle or donate
There are car seat recycling and donation programs in all 50 US States, and some recycling plants may accept used or expired car seats, but call to confirm before dropping yours off.
If there is no available drop-off within your area, you can join the mail-in programs where you can order a car seat recycling kit from carseatrecycling.com.
You can also consider TerraCycle’s baby gear zero waste box program, which allows parents to send in a box filled with the most used baby gear items for recycling, including car seats.
What to do with an expired infant car seat?
If disposing of an old car seat is your only option, you can toss it in the trash, but you have to do some car seat disposal guidelines.
You need to remove any extra padding and foam from the seat, cut away any straps and remove all metal pieces from the seat, and lastly, mark the entire gear as “unsafe” or “expired” to discourage anyone from reusing it.
The ultimate goal is to dismantle the car seat to the point where a baby or child can’t ride in it.
It would be best to visit your local waste services website to see what options they have (like bulk pickup) to help dispose of your car seat correctly.
Nowadays, most of us want to help in any way or form to minimize our waste and also help other people that might be in need of the things that are no longer useful to us.
But on top of all these good intentions is the safety of the infant that would be potentially using the car seat you no longer need.
Donate if you still can, recycle if that is the best option, and properly dispose of it if there are no other options.