While it’s crucial that caregivers use only CRs that are in good condition, have not been in a crash, and are not expired, this leads to the question of proper disposal of unusable CRs. What method should caregivers use that is both safe (i.e., will not unwittingly allow them to be used by other children) and environmentally friendly? Happily, Target and Walmart have each stepped up with CR recycling programs to address this problem. The scale and influence of these two major retailers vastly expands current options for safe disposal and effective recycling of CRs (if only for one month out of the year).
Since 2016, Target has held an annual event in September that allows caregivers to turn in any car seat (including car seat bases and boosters) for a 20% off Target coupon on any one new CR, stroller, or certain other baby items (in-store or online).
Caregivers may simply bring their old CR into a Target store and look for the drop-off box near the guest services desk, where a representative will hand out the coupon. Target notes that this coupon may be added to other Target coupons that are available, such as 10% off certain CRs. This year’s event ends September 13.
The programs discounts provide an incentive for caregivers to bring in their old, unused CRs. A further incentive is that Target will pass these CRs along to Waste Management for recycling, ensuring that these old CRs won’t end up reused by other caregivers or contribute to growing landfills. Target says that Waste Management will recycle the parts into new products like buckets, pallets, and construction materials such as steel beams and carpet padding.
According to the Target website, the program had already received 789,000 CRs heading into the 2019 event, representing 11.98 million pounds of material that was recycled rather than put into a landfill.
Walmart’s first car seat trade-in event is this September 16–30. During this two-week Walmart Car Seat Recycling Event, customers can bring used car seats to the service desk of participating stores (nearly 4,000 full-size stores across the country) and receive a $30 gift card for use on items in-store or online. There is a limit of two gift cards per household, and booster seats are not eligible for trade-in.
To dispose of the CRs, the company is partnering with TerraCycle, a company that works with major manufacturers and retailers to recycle “difficult-to-recycle” products and packaging that normally would be thrown away. Tom Szaky, CEO and founder of TerraCycle, notes that, through this Walmart/TerraCycle partnership, traditionally non-recyclable CRs are now nationally recyclable. Though this is true for only a couple weeks a year, he states that, “Through this event, we expect to divert the plastic equivalent of approximately 35 million water bottles from landfills.” Walmart states that TerraCycle will recycle every component of CRs that are turned in.
Since this is the first trade-in event held by Walmart, it remains to be seen whether it will be held annually.