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SeatSmart programme raises awareness

SeatSmart Programme Manager, Toni Bye. Image: Supplied.

Not long-ago recycling was largely consigned to glass bottles, tin cans, paper and carboard, and some plastic, but that landscape now looks quite different.

From electronics to printer toner cartridges, carpeting and waste oil, there are more ways to reduce how much you put in the bin – and an increasing awareness too. Even child car seats can be recycled, thanks to the SeatSmart programme.

The programme, created by resource recovery specialists 3R Group, aims to not only prevent waste but improve road safety by raising awareness around expiry dates on child car seats. Latest research shows that up to 120,000 car seats expire in New Zealand each year, representing a huge volume of potentially recyclable plastic and metal, says programme manager Toni Bye.

Seats collected through the programme need to be dismantled in order to recycle their plastic and metal components. Over 11,700 seats have been collected to date.

 “This is where there is further benefit because we use social enterprises to do this work for us, which gives paid work to people who are disabled, marginalised or disadvantaged,” Toni says. “3R’s ethos is about maximising the environmental and social impact of recycling programmes.”

Previously dismantling work had been done for free through the Department of Corrections Community Work programmes to provide useful indoor work for offenders. While SeatSmart will continue to use the Community Work programmes for some dismantling, the rapidly increasing volume and complexity of seats means the majority will require paid dismantling.

In April the programme celebrated three years since its official launch.  A local collection site has been operating at Baby on the Move Tauranga since 2016, having so far collected nearly 200 seats.

Store owner Amy Attwood says they are proud to be partners of the programme. “As all car seats expire they need to be disposed of, so being part of this programme means they are able to be recycled when that time comes and not thrown into landfill. Our customers are always pleased this is an option and we are proud to be part of this fantastic programme,” she says.

Nationwide there are 32 collection sites in nine regions, with the programme having increased rapidly during 2018. “It’s good to see the growing movement away from plastic bags, straws and other single use plastics but we’d also encourage people to look beyond the small items to some of the larger items in our homes. Car seats, mattresses, electrical items – none of these things need go to landfill, we just need to change how we look at things, to see them as a useful resource, not rubbish,” Toni says.

While the plastic and metal in a seat can be recycled the fabric is something 3R is still working on finding a solution for, Toni says. However, the straps are used by social enterprises like Paper4Trees in Tauranga and The Green Collective in Nelson to make recycled bags.

To find your nearest drop-off site and the associated recycling fee, visit www.seatsmart.co.nz.  Costs vary across the country due to the availability of local council support in some areas.

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