In 2016, 3R Group launched the SeatSmart child car seat recycling programme, which has since grown to 45 collection sites, stretching from Auckland to Queenstown, where expired or damaged seats can be taken to be recycled.
To date, more than 33,000 seats have been collected. This equates to nearly 150,000kg of plastic and metal being recycled. Thousands of straps have also been reused to make bags by New Zealand businesses and social enterprises.
SeatSmart maximises community access to the recycling service through its collection site partnerships with baby goods retailers Baby on the Move, Baby Bunting and Babies NZ as well as a number of resource recovery organisations and councils around the country.
The programme operates on a user-pays model but several councils and some retail partners offer subsidies to reduce the recycling fee, with some fully covering the fee.
In 2023 SeatSmart celebrated the third anniversary of its partnership with AMI. The insurer recycles all the seats written off through its claims process with SeatSmart.
3R Group believes in sustainability having a positive impact beyond resource recovery. Through SeatSmart this includes promoting road safety by creating awareness around the need to check expiry dates on seats.
The programme also aims to amplify the benefits of recycling by working with social enterprises where possible – whether through paid dismantling work or supplying materials, like straps, to be reused in new products.
The impacts of Covid over the last few years and increasing complexity of the seats being dismantled have made this a challenge, but 3R continues to explore options. For example, SeatSmart recently hosted clients from Auckland social enterprise Real World Living so they could get work experience helping dismantle seats.
SeatSmart also encourages behaviour change by challenging people to think differently about recycling. A child car seat doesn’t immediately spring to mind as something recyclable. The success of the programme demonstrates that recycling can go far beyond what we put in the kerbside bin.