How to Dispose of or Recycle Car Seats

A few months back, my friend Claire asked me for advice on where and how to dispose of car seats. "Hmm...that's a really good question," I thought as I got to doing some online research.

Properly disposing car seats is a tricky but important subject to be familiar with, because safety is the top priority here.

If you've got an older car seat that you're looking to get rid of, first see if it fits three pieces of criteria:
  • Has the seat has been in an accident, is it visibly damaged and or has it been recalled?
  • Has the seat expired? Expiration dates are located on the bottom of most seats and are typically six years after the manufacture date.
  • Have the seat’s straps been cleaned with harsh chemicals?

If the answer to all those questions is a no, then you can look at donating or selling your car seat. As a consumer, if you're shopping around for a secondhand car seat, only purchase one you absolutely trust to be safe, not expired and not involved in a vehicle crash.

You can call around to some local nonprofit organizations that work with mothers in need to see if they are accepting car seat donations.

If the answer to any of those questions is a yes, then you cannot donate or sell the car seat secondhand.

There are some, albeit very limited, options for recycling car seats that can no longer be used, whether because they are expired, recalled or were involved in a crash.

Graphic via HowToSafety

For the past few years, Target has held a car seat trade-in event during April, to coincide with Earth Month. In the event, people can bring in their old car seats and Target would collect them for recycling the parts and give the customer a coupon to redeem on a new car seat.

If you've got a car seat that you'd like to recycle, you can hang on to it to see if Target will continue the event next year. has a list of car seat recycling programs in the United States and Canada, but it warns consumers to call a program before bringing a car seat to confirm that the program is still in effect. The plastic import bans in China have affected the plastic items that recyclers can accept, and car seats are impacted.

Baby Earth is one company that accepts car seats (and strollers and high chairs too) for breaking down into recyclable components. With their program, you mail your item to them and foot the shipping costs, and they take care of the rest.

TerraCycle offers a baby gear zero waste box that you purchase, and you can collect baby gear of all sorts that you ship back to the company. They'll handle recycling the components. This would be a great thing for a church, business or daycare to implement and get the community involved.

If donating or recycling your car seat just isn't an option, there are steps you're recommended to take before tossing the car seat on your curb.

Since curb picking is a popular form of freecycling, it's important to basically destroy the car seat to hinder someone from picking it up and using it. If you've gotta throw it out, then it's not safe for a baby to ride in!

Photo from CSFTL

  • Cut the harness straps.
  • Pull the cushioning out.
  • Write "expired" or "damaged" and "do not use" on the plastic.
  • Place the car seat in a black trash bag, or wait until right before your trash pickup is scheduled to put it out on the curb.

It sucks from a waste standpoint, but car seats are one of those items that are tricky to recycle and potentially dangerous to use secondhand.

When you're shopping for car seats, look for ones that will last a long time so that you don't have to accumulate multiples in the process of your child's growth. Take care of the car seat (as much as you can) so that it remains in good condition for as long as possible.

If the car seat isn't expired, recalled or involved in a crash, save them to use for your future children.


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