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As all parents and caretakers know, a car seat is mandatory for young children and infants. But what do you do when your child has outgrown their seat, or it’s expired or been in an accident? There are approximately 12 million car seats purchased in the US every year, many of those ending up in landfills once they’ve been retired.

90% of the materials, by weight, can be recycled. There are two locations in Ann Arbor that accept retired car seats for recycling, which are listed below.

Why does a car seat expire or become unusable after a car accident? They expire because the plastic materials they’re made of degrades over time from ultraviolet light, which weakens the effectiveness of the frame to withstand impact in a crash.

They’re unusable after an accident, even if they look fine, for similar reasons. Think of the car seat like an airbag- it’s there to save your child’s life. You have to replace your airbag after a crash because it can no longer withstand impact and help save your life- it’s only useful for one crash. A car seat is the same. It may look like it hasn’t sustained any damage, but there could be cracks or fractures in the plastic that puts your baby’s life at risk in the event of another crash.

To properly dispose of a car seat, you should strip the entire seat of the cover, the straps, disassemble everything and cut the straps. It’s also recommended you write all over the plastic base something like “EXPIRED” or “CRASHED” in permanent marker, to stop someone from trying to use it. There are two locations in Ann Arbor that accept car seats for recycling: Drop-off station on East Ellsworth, and the recovery yard on Jackson Road. For more information visit Recycle Ann Arbor.

Julie Lazarus, MD, is a board-certified pediatrician with IHA Pediatric Healthcare - Arbor Park. Dr. Lazarus earned her medical degree from the University of Toledo College of Medicine, and completed her residency at Case Western MetroHealth System in Cleveland, Ohio. Dr. Lazarus has clinical interests in early development and preventive care, breast feeding and lactation, adolescent care, and childhood literacy.