Car seat recycling success prompts search for innovative ways to use materials

UA Enactus Club president Bryce Schuler (left) with VP of finance KC Seitz

UA Enactus Club president Bryce Schuler (left) with VP of finance KC Seitz

Talk about an explosive start! When TMC partnered with the University of Arizona Enactus Club in August 2014 to start collecting old, unwanted or expired car seats to send to Mexico or recycle, the original goal was to collect 100 seats by spring 2015.

Just three months after its launch, there are already more than 110 car seats sitting in donated warehouse space, a nod to the incredible generosity of the Tucson community, according to the club’s vice president of finance, KC Seitz.

Organizers have since upped their goal to 175 seats by March 7 – the day a huge inspection and recycling event will take place at TMC.

Certified child passenger safety technicians (CPST) will meticulously inspect every seat that’s been collected. Restraints that are in good shape, not missing any parts, and are less than 10 years old, according to the manufacture date, will be sent to Mexico as part of the Arizona Department of Health Services Safe Ride Home initiative. In the Mexican state of Sonora, for example, an estimated 13 percent of babies and small children use car seats. In Arizona, that number is closer to 90 percent.

The Arizona Department of Health Services believes so few parents use car seats in Mexico because they simply can’t afford one, and car seats are typically more expensive. This new program has the potential to make a big difference by putting these seats directly in the hands of the families who need them most.

All other seats that don’t meet these standards will be stripped down and taken apart. “The pieces of a car seat that can be recycled include: seat belts, Styrofoam, fabric, plastic and small metal bars,” said Seitz.

The club calls the project “Buckle Up to Recycling” and wants to turn the waste into something meaningful. “We don’t just want to recycle the materials,” explained Seitz, “but we feel that we can instead make new products for the community from the recycled waste.” Seitz is asking the public to send in ideas about what can be done with the recycled material from these car seats. Do you work for an agency that could benefit from this? Do you know another agency that could benefit? Or do you have an innovative idea on what could be done with the recycled materials to build a better community? Please email KC Seitz at kcseitz@email.arizona.edu.

“Some ideas that Enactus has come up with this far include using the seat belts to make women’s hand bags and crushing the Styrofoam to fill pillow cases to make dog beds for a local animal shelter,” said Seitz.

Seitz adds that in addition to recycling the car seats, they’re trying to educate the public about why putting a child in a used car seat is never recommended. Jessica Mitchell, TMC’s community outreach specialist and CPST said, “Buying or using a secondhand car seat is never recommended because it’s impossible to know the history of the seat and whether it’s been in a crash.”

The Enactus Club creates projects that are economic, sustainable and centered around empowering people. “This project has a lot of potential to empower people by increasing awareness that used car seats are not considered best practice, and that more than 90 percent of each car seat can be recycled. Our hope is that we’ll be able to create jobs by spinning this project into a successful sustainable/eco-friendly business,” said Seitz.

Seitz is thrilled that GEICO has also hopped on board by helping to publicize the program and sponsor the inspection event. GEICO has been a longtime supporter of TMC’s child passenger safety efforts, ensuring families have access to age-and weight-appropriate car seats and appropriate education to keep their kids safe.

HAVE AN OLD CAR SEAT YOU WANT TO DONATE? FOUR THINGS TO KNOW:

▪ You can drop off any used, expired or unwanted car seats including infant seats, convertible seats and booster seats.

▪ Don’t worry about the condition or cleanliness of the seat!

▪ You can drop seats off at TMC anytime during normal business hours, Monday through Friday. Please call Jessica Mitchell at 324-4110 to schedule a drop off.

 

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Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461
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