It is always refreshing to see new product categories added to the list of stewardship initiatives being developed in Australia. Importantly, it is a sign that more manufacturers, retailers and service providers can see the broader environmental and social benefits of managing product-related impacts.
Consumer appetite for stewardship schemes that meet a clear need and are also equitable in their coverage nationwide, is strong and ever-increasing, but not always uncomplicated and adequately funded. Some are mature and meet community expectations, while others are nascent and in development.
A new product category being investigated for stewardship action in Australia is the child car safety seat. Not always associated with take-back and recycling programs, the majority of these seats go straight to landfill at end-of-life despite being highly recyclable. Over 90% of a typical child car safety seat contains materials that can be recovered and reprocessed when correctly dismantled. The category includes rear facing infant carriers and bases, forward facing seats and booster seats.
Roughly 1-1.4 million child car safety seats reach their end of life every year in Australia, with most sent to landfill. Despite at least 90 per cent of materials contained in a child car safety seat being recyclable, there are currently limited opportunities to recycle them in Australia.
During 2017, sustainability consultants Equilibrium developed and implemented child safety seat recycling trials in Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland. Several key stakeholders participated in the trial, which included close cooperation with seat manufacturers, automotive associations, local councils, recyclers and community groups.
The trial successfully explored collection issues and tested the feasibility of a product stewardship model to improve car seat recycling. Over 10 tonnes of seats were processed during the trial, with a recovery rate of 82 per cent.
Enthusiastic collaboration between stakeholders has been a key feature of how the trial has been designed and implemented. A strong partnership approach has also helped to maximise community engagement and raise broader awareness about the potential for a permanent program.
The trial program received funding and support from the Queensland and NSW governments (Waste Less Recycle More Initiative – NSW), Victorian Metropolitan Waste and Resource Recovery Group as well as major car seat brands including Dorel and InfaSecure, and automotive association representatives from RACV, NRMA, RAA and RACT. Kidsafe and various social enterprises have also been involved in the trial’s promotion and delivery.
For more information about the trial you can view this short video.
GlobalPSC members can download a detailed case study sheet with practical considerations from the Knowledge Base.
Text and materials provided by Equilibrium.