Project looks at child car restraint disposal in New Zealand

Thursday, 03 April, 2014

In 2014, an estimated 40,000 child car restraints will expire. An industry-wide project has been set up in New Zealand to look at the disposal of these restraints.

The project was initiated by 3R Group as part of its work designing ways for businesses to help their customers responsibly dispose of used products and packaging. Industry research conducted by 3R estimates that more than 330,000 kg of waste material from expired child restraints is generated each year.

“Widespread recycling simply doesn’t exist for child restraints in New Zealand, so presently owners should be sending them to landfill,” said 3R Project Manager Michelle Duncan.

“However, research and anecdotal evidence show that while a large number do end up in landfill, there is a second-hand market for restraints, expired or otherwise, and that a large number are also stored in garages or sheds.”

Car restraints awaiting disposal.

The other important aspect of the project is child safety. According to Duncan, research shows correctly used child restraints and safety belts reduce the risk of death in a vehicle crash by as much as 70% for infants and 54% for toddlers; but some people 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”.

The project will investigate the disposal problem in New Zealand, as well as the use of fire retardants in the restraint components which could affect recycling potential. There will also be a collection and processing trial, plus the project will look at what kind of product stewardship program would offer the best outcome for industry and owners of expired restraints.

Duncan said the project has been granted funding of $10,665 through Auckland Council’s Waste Minimisation and Innovation Fund. Additional funding has come from Auckland Council, The Baby Factory, Baby on the Move and The Warehouse. Plunket, the NZ Transport Agency, a plastic processor and other importers are also involved in the project.

“It’s not as simple as collecting seats, pulling them apart and sending the various pieces off for recycling,” said Duncan.

“We’re involved because there are significant barriers to recycling restraints through traditional routes.

“We’ll be looking at all the options and expect to find a solution that can turn this waste product into raw materials that can be used again.”

3R expects the project will be completed by September 2014

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