The first R, reduce, cannot be avoided as regulations in Canada require children to be buckled up in the appropriate car seat.
The second R, reuse, is not recommended for several reasons. First of all, children’s car seats sold in Canada have an expiry or useful life date. Over time the materials used to make the car seat could weaken or become damaged from use. Also, a used car seat may not meet the current safety regulations and standards. This puts you at risk of not being in compliance with current regulations and of your child being injured. As well, it is important to know the history of a car seat if you are not the original owner. If the seat has been in a car crash it may not be safe to use, even if the child was not in the seat at the time.
Finally the third R, recycle, has many barriers. Children’s car seats are made from several different materials and parts. It requires much manual labour to disassemble the seats and there are not many markets available to recycle the materials into new items.
At this time, I have only been able to find one company in Canada, located in Calgary, Alberta, that disassembles car seats and sends the separated materials for recycling. The company, Kidseat Recyclers, charges $10 a car seat to make the recycling operation economically possible. They require that all straps and material be removed from the seat before dropping it off. They send the plastic and metal for recycling. They do list a few companies on their website where customers can send the straps and material to be reused.
The Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where Halton Region sends the Blue Box material for recycling is not equipped to handle an item as large as a car seat. MRFs have been designed to process packaging and paper material.
In Halton, children’s car seats can be disposed in your regular garbage if they fit in a garbage bag or can. If not, the car seat can be disposed as bulk waste on your scheduled bulk waste collection day. It is recommended to remove or cut the straps off the seat, remove the padding if possible and place in a separate garbage bag, so that it cannot be picked up off the curb and reused.