Safety first: a new project looks at alternatives to child car restraint disposal

29 April 2014

In 2014 an estimated 40,000 child car restraints will expire, with landfill being the main disposal option for owners. 3R Group is developing a solution.

An industry-wide project has been set up to look at the problem, with the aim of reducing waste to landfill, and improving road safety for children through proper disposal of expired child restraints.

3R Group initiated the project as part of its work designing ways for businesses to help their customers responsibly dispose of used products and packaging, a concept known as product stewardship.

Industry research conducted by 3R Group estimates that more than 330,000kg of waste material from expired child restraints is generated each year.

3R Group project manager Michelle Duncan says that “widespread recycling simply doesn’t exist for child restraints in New Zealand, so at present owners should be sending them to landfill.

“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,” she says.

The other important aspect of the project is child safety.  Research shows that correctly used approved 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.

“Some people continue to 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.

“You only have to think about plastic toys left in a sandpit over the summer to see what damage the sun can do,” she says.

The project will investigate the extent of 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, and the project will look at what kind of product stewardship programme would offer the best outcome for industry and owners of expired restraints.

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

“Child car restraints are an ideal product for product stewardship as it can solve two key problems: one for the customer where it’s all about what they can do with an expired restraint; and secondly for New Zealand as a whole, diverting waste from landfill and recovering as much recyclable material as possible.”

3R Group expects the project will be completed by September 2014.

If you would like to be kept informed of progress on this, you can register your interest by emailing