Car Seat Recycling: Tossing it in the bin

Sustainability is a buzzword, and it’s definitely important to reduce waste when we can! There are often three bins to choose from at your local recycling place when you’re ready to make your free throw — but until one of them says “car seat,” how do you know where it goes? Most importantly, how do you know when it goes? Lucky for us, Target usually does a car seat trade-in program twice a year.  It’s a car seat recycling program held twice a year where they offer you a coupon for baby gear when you bring them your used seat. Did you also consider that you can also pass your car seat on to someone else along with your stroller or select baby gear?

How to recycle car seats

Call your local recycling facility to see how they would like to receive the car seat you’re looking to recycle. Or, check out the Target car seat trade-in events and easily recycle your car seat and receive a discount to shop! Target will accept car seats of all types, including infant car seats, convertible car seats, harnessed, and booster seats. Yes, even a booster seat! You can even turn in just the car seat bases if you’re still using the car seat stroller or that terrifying old seat you used in the 90s that your mom has kept in the attic for some unknown reason. And it doesn’t matter if these items are expired, damaged, or stained – they’re getting recycled anyway!

But, before you start making your shopping list, remember: You can give another mama 100% off by passing on your seat to another child. Here’s how to know if your car seat deserves a new life: 

It isn’t expired

This is the easiest one to check. Your car seat won’t go sour in the fridge, but safety standards will change as technology improves. (Would you want an iPhone 5 right now? Same idea.) Plus, if it’s an infant seat, the base and the seat may have different expiration dates. Check the manufacturer label on yours to make sure your car seat donations are safe. 

The Department of Transportation makes sure all car seats manufactured in the U.S. meet safety standards. These rules dictate how critical safety information is conveyed to buyers through labels and instruction manuals and how each seat performs in crash tests. They do not regulate what happens after you purchase!

Is it illegal to use an expired car seat?

No. There are no laws prohibiting you from using an expired car seat. But, you still shouldn’t use an expired seat, as it can increase the likelihood of injury to your little one. Why? Because of wear and tear over a significant amount of time and changing technological advances with car seats that make them safer. You should never use an expired or damaged car seat.

There are no existing recalls

A car seat that isn’t safe for your child isn’t safe for any child. And since most companies don’t want to shout their mistakes from the rooftops and there are a million car seats to check out for recalls, the National Highway Safety Administration maintains a comprehensive database to catalog every car seat and vehicle safety issue. 

It has all its original parts

You know when you have to return something you’ve already opened and upturn your entire house, searching for every part to shove back in the box? Same kind of searching for this (i.e., inserts, harness pads, metal pieces, manual, etc.). 

It has not been in an accident

Many car seats need to be replaced if they were involved in an accident, even if the child was not in the seat when it happened. If the force of a crash is enough to bend the steel in your vehicle’s frame and toss you around in your seat belt a bit, it’s enough to impair the plastic in your little’s car seat (even if you can’t see it). You don’t want to reuse a potentially damaged car seat!

What happens in a car crash anyway?

What Happens in a Car Crash?

The smell has not been compromised

Let’s be real. Things come out of our babes that smell … questionable. And those things come out wherever we are — in the car, at the store, during family photos — you name it. If you’ve properly cleaned your seat (with only what the manufacturer allows) and made good-as-new magic happen, you’re in the clear. Not good as new? Don’t worry, sometimes there’s just no saving it. (Note: For any other nose-tickling smells, always disclose whether the seat was in a smoke-free, pet-free home.)

It has never traveled under a plane (or anywhere other than a car/stroller)

This is a big one. When you check your car seat with luggage, though it’s one less thing for you to carry, baggage handlers will not be as gentle with it as you are. It may be tossed, put under or between a million pounds of luggage, and come out with damage you may not even notice. 

Head over to our YouTube Channel for more tips for airplane travel with car seats.

5 Tips for Flying with Car Seats!

The integrity is excellent

You may be noticing a common theme: Do not pass your car seat along to another child if it is damaged. This includes no broken parts, no frayed straps, all angle indicators working, etc. If you aren’t sure, it’s always better to be safe than sorry — recycle it during recycling programs, such as the Target event while you have the option to do so. Wear and tear is acceptable at the Target Trade-in Event!

I have an expired or damaged seat. What do I do?

Head over to our YouTube Channel to see the video for getting rid of expired car seats or damaged car seats.

Getting rid of damaged or expired car seats

What is the longest-lasting car seat?

So, which convertible car seat will last my family the longest? Unfortunately, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer here. The seat that fits your life, your family, and your vehicle will ultimately last you the longest. We’re trying to avoid buying the wrong seat and then having to repurchase a new one. Our Car Seat Buying Kits are designed to ask you questions that are specific to you. So what works for one person may not work for another. You may even have different seats for your kiddo for each vehicle.  “I wish someone would just tell me what to buy.”  Sound familiar?  Schedule a 1:1 virtual consultation with one of our Nationally Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians.

How to Choose the Best Car Seat!

Where to recycle car seats?

While it may seem a no-brainer to pass on your seat to another family, make sure you’re doing diligence before you share! Follow along on Instagram and Facebook for more tips and tricks! We also offer gift cards for our safety courses. Spread the good word – think before you recycle your car seat!

Find your best car seat in *under 5 minutes*

Skip to content