Car Seat Recycling

State: UT Type: Neither Year: 2016

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Overview Brief Description of LHD Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) serves a population of over 1.1 million.  SLCoHD is located in the most populated county in Utah and one of four counties known as the Wasatch Front that comprises over 70% of the state population.  As of the 2014 estimated census, there were 344,089 family households residing in the county. The largest racial makeup was 72.6% White followed by 17.8% of Hispanic or Latino origin.  In the county, 31.5% of the population was under age 19, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 30.5% from 25 to 44, 21.4% from 45 to 64, and 6.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.2 years. The average family size was 3.59.   Public Health Issue An estimated 10 million car seats are sold each year in the US. Without viable recycling options for car seats, the plastics and metals will end up in the landfill. An estimated 150 million pounds of plastic and metal are being deposited in landfills and incinerators annually in the United States. Car seats however are comprised of recyclable materials. Car seat recycling also serves as a tool for educating parents about recalls, expiration dates and unusable seats. Goals & Objectives   Goal 1: Promote a green initiative through a sustainable car seat recycling program.   Objective: Engage community partners to assist with maintaining and expanding car seat recycling drop off locations.      Objective: Collaborate with a local recycler who will use repurposed materials domestically.   Objective: Increase car seat recycling messages through all marketing outlets, including social media. Goal 2: Remove unsafe or expired car seats from use. Objective:  Educate child care givers about car seat expiration dates.           Objective:  Educate community partners about factors that need to be considered with car seats involved in a crash. Goal 3: Expand car seat recycling opportunities Objective: Increase car seat recycling messages within diverse populations who use a high percentage of unusable car seats. Objective: Assist other states in creating a sustainable car seat recycling initiative. Objective: Promote car seat recycling opportunities with local, state and national groups.   How was practice implemented? In 2009 confiscated car seats were stacked in an office until they could be dismantled. Research began into identifying the components of car seats and car seat manufacturers were contacted. An internet search was completed and no states were discovered that were restoring plastic into another usable form.  Partnerships were created and two recyclers have served as resources over the last six years. The most recent, Pro Polymer, shreds plastics into a regrind flake, bales the flake and transports the bales to partner companies to mold them into reusable products such as pipes for water, oil and sewer.   The first years were very effective in raising awareness and impacting public attitudes. Boy Scouts events were held annually and momentum quickly grew for daily access to recycle car seats. A major step toward sustainability occurred in 2011 through the donation of storage sheds from Head Start. In the next two years the purchase of additional sheds were secured through a significant savings with Lowes and painted with vivid colors to be identifiable. Today eight sheds exist for residents to recycle independently by dropping off car seats.   Results / Outcomes    The permanent car seat drop-off sites are visited daily by the public and each shed can maintain approximately 90-100 car seats.  At a minimum each shed is emptied at every two months however many locations are emptied more often depending on special events and seasonal issues.  Fabrics are used as fuel at cement plant, metals go to the metal recycler, plastic shell is ground into ½ grind for resale to injection molder for restoration to make new products. Entrepreneurs in the community are also using the fabric and materials to make blankets, dolls, cloth books and many more items.  Another outcome is that seven states have contacted us to learn more about car seat recycling.      Public Health Impact As stewards of the environment, we are responsible for preserving and protecting our resources for ourselves and future generations.  As child safety technicians it is our responsibility to eliminate preventable injuries and death to children by educating parents about properly installed and appropriate car seats to ensure the safety of their children. It is important to connect the two responsibilities so that it is a win-win conclusion. As a technician educates parents about car seat safety, there exists a responsibility to also educate that parent about recycling. Website  http://slcohealth.org/programs/injuryPrevention/safeKids/carSeatRecycling.html  
Responsiveness and Innovation   Statement of Problem Car seat plastics take over 100-1,000 years to decompose, during that time emitting toxins into the atmosphere. On average, a 10-12 lb. car seat is 80% plastic; by weight, 85% plastic, 15% foam, pad and cloth and 5% metal. Car seats typically have a life span of six years and then they are classified as expired, some car seats are recalled, and some become unusable due to wear. It is almost impossible to account for all the car seats being deposited at the landfill as there is no official tracking system. With almost 9% of the 1.1 million people in Salt Lake County being under the age of five, unusable car seats alone for this age group alone creates a tremendous burden to the landfills. If every child in Salt Lake County had only one car seat and were taken to the landfill at the same time, the weight of those car seats would equal 88 elephants.   What target population is affected? Anytime toxins are released into the atmosphere, we are all affected. Of special concern are infants and seniors. Americans use 2,500,000 plastic bottles every hour. Most of them are thrown away and end up at landfills. Plastic bags and other plastic garbage kill as many as 1,000,000 sea creatures every year. Americans throw away 25,000,000,000 Styrofoam coffee cups each year which take up 25-30% of the landfill. Of the average 4.5 lbs. of refuge each person generates each day, 1.5 lbs. is recyclable. When you take into account that for the first time in seven years, American women gave birth to more babies than the year before. An estimated 3,985,924 babies were born in the U.S. last year at a birthrate that was 1 percent higher than the 2013 rate. The increase means that 53,743 more babies were born in 2014 than in the previous year, according to new data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “I think we need to wait a little bit to see what happens, but you might see this as a good proxy indicator of the strength of the economy if people feel they can start having more children again," Daniel Lichter, director of the Cornell Population Center at Cornell University, says. Each of these babies born will be using three to four car seats during their developing years.   What has been done in the past to address problem? This is the first recycling program of its kind in Salt Lake Count and Utah. Research also suggests that it might be the first of its kind nationally. Research has demonstrated that other states such as Oregon, Washington and Colorado do have some recycling programs in place, but, none has yet developed a comprehensive recycling program that encompasses reclamation/restoration of car seat plastic. As car seats are not designed with recycling in mind, many states have no choice but to dismantle the seats; separating the metal and plastics using hand tools. The costs associated with dismantling and locating a recycling company to take the plastic is both time and cost intensive. Many of the dismantled car seats are often hammered down so they cannot reused, but, eventually end up at the landfills. Grinding and shredding are often used if a recycling company can afford the employee costs to dismantle the car seat and purchase the necessary equipment to shred. The costs associated with recycling, the manpower and willing recycling processors are fundamental to create a sustainable car seat recycling program.   Why is current/proposed practice better? The initiative “Save Their Lives, Save the Planet” works on two levels.  One is to provide educational information and training to parents about the life span of a car seat, why they become distressed and instructing parents on how to check for expired car seat dates, in addition to addressing proper fit and proper installation. On the second front, the initiative teaches that while we strive to keep kids from unintentional injury and deaths, we teach parents and children that it is important to keep the planet safe. We have created sustainable car seat drop off sites. Tear pads in English and Spanish are distributed at all available venues; clinics, hospitals, agencies, businesses, and many more. Recycling information is also available on the Safe Kids website. A video ‘Life of a car seat’ was created in July 2015 to demonstrate the recycling process. To engage children, color sheet has been developed with Super Hero Recycler, Booster Betty and Car Seat Carl encouraging kids to be a part of recycling. The fact that car seats in Salt Lake County are being recycled demonstrates that recycling is about creating interest, awareness and engaging the community.     Is current practice innovative? Yes, the recycling process in the manner designed through the health department and Safe Kids Salt Lake County is innovative.  Car seat and recycling education are interwoven. The two are not separated.  When a parent purchases a car seat, the parent should consider the recommended use of car seat and select a car seat with longer life for the child, thus, needing less car seats. It is necessary to teach parents to safely limit the number of car seats used and to keep car seats clean and in good condition for a longer use. Parents welcome the opportunity to recycle their car seats and many environmentally conscious parents have stored them in garages concerned about taking them to the landfill. Embracing car seat recycling and restoring plastics into usable products such as plastic buckets, plastic flower pots and plastic hangers to name a few should be a practice in every state.             Is the practice new to the field OR is it a creative use of existing tool or practice? The practice of recycling car seats into a restored form is new. The process of shredding, grinding and chipping is not new. The difference is that one becomes a new plastic product, not having to use new chemicals to create the plastic product, while the other unrestored still becomes part of the waste stream at some point.    Is current practice evidence-based? Yes, the practice as of yet has no precedent but it is hoped that with this submission this initiative will serve as perhaps the first evidence based practice for car seat recycling. This practice is so new in fact that as of yet only one car seat manufactures has started making more of their seats with recyclable metals over plastics.  It has been a challenge to parents as well as to what to do with the car seat after they expire, affected in an accident or a child has outgrown the seat.  For injury prevention advocates and car seat technicians recycling can help with this dilemma.   Car seat recycling is an environmental issue. Car seats are also a safety issue. The time to address two growing issues; child passenger safety and recycling car seats as one is now.  It is practical that as we address child passenger safety, recycling the car seat should be included in the same lesson. We cannot continue to promote one and ignore the other.  They are integrated safety issues.  We must encourage and promote safe travel for children by using a car seat that is appropriate and at the same time encourage and promote a future safe and healthy environment for those children.  They are inseparable. The recommendation to ‘make an effort’ to each state to attempt car seat recycling will be a win for all.     
LHD and Community Collaboration and Implementation Strategy   Goals and objectives of practice restated Goal 1: Promote a green initiative through a sustainable car seat recycling program.   Objective: Engage community partners to assist with maintaining and expanding car seat recycling drop off locations.      Objective: Collaborate with a local recycler who will use repurposed materials domestically.   Objective: Increase car seat recycling messages through all marketing outlets, including social media.   Goal 2: Remove unsafe or expired car seats from use. Objective:  Educate child care givers about car seat expiration dates.           Objective:  Educate community partners about factors that need to be considered with car seats involved in a crash.   Goal 3: Expand car seat recycling opportunities Objective: Increase car seat recycling messages within diverse populations who use a high percentage of unusable car seats. Objective: Assist other states in creating a sustainable car seat recycling initiative. Objective: Promote car seat recycling opportunities with local, state and national groups.   What did you do to achieve goals and objectives? Safe Kids Salt Lake County, led by staff within the Salt Lake County Health Department, had no experience in recycling expertise of any kind. There is not a national program or a guide to create a car seat recycling program. The most that was known about car seat recycling was to dismantle the car seat using household tools, crush the shell with a hammer, and cut the harness straps and fabric before disposing it in a dumpster. It began as a moral and ethical obligation to take care of the planet for future generations. When the first event was held in 2009, “Recycle Your Car Seat Week” and a press conference were held with Council Mayor describing the new initiative. It received excellent television coverage and numerous calls came in from residents inquiring where they could continue to dispose of unusable car seats. The instant and unwavering interest determined that the community needed and wanted a sustainable car seat recycling program. A recycler, U-Recycle, was identified in 2009 and a means for transporting cars seats on a regular basis was handled by health department staff. In 2013 U-Recycle dropped out of recycling because of dropping markets for the repurposed product. In response a new recycler, Pro Polymer, was secured. Pro Polymer dismantle/strip car seats of their plastic and manufactured recycled resins for product use. They also developed program details whereby car seats would be compacted, baled and transported to injection molders for restoration. A major step toward sustainability occurred in 2011 through the donation of storage sheds from Head Start. In the next two years the purchase of additional sheds were secured through a significant savings with Lowes and painted with vivid colors to be identifiable. There are currently eight locations and one location is at the local landfill. The drop-off sheds offer residents locations to dispose of their car seats or even bike helmets any time they wish without having to dismantle or crush the product.   Any criteria for who was selected to receive the practice? The only expressed criteria are concern for the safety of children and the environment. That as we diligently work to keep kids safe, we must influence public opinions to keep their planet safe and inhabitable.   Were other stakeholders involved? What was their role in the planning and implementation process? In addition to the recycling companies that we have done business with over the last six years, no other stakeholders have been involved to the degree of continued sustainability.  For a few years, the Boy Scouts of America and those scouts seeking an Eagle Scout merit badge did engage in assisting at events, distributing fliers, sorting the car seats and transporting them to the recycling company.  The current recycling company played an active role in planning and implementation.  The recycling company identified their role by describing their locations, capabilities, program details and their future program goals in car seat recycling. The implementation process involved the recycling company identifying the machinery needed for the process of shredding, baling and transporting. A live TV interview with the company and Safe Kids was scheduled. Past & Current stakeholders             Salt Lake County             Salt Lake County Health Department             U-Recycle             The Pro Recycling Group             Salt Lake County Recycling Coordinator             Unified Fire Stations             Salt Lake County Landfill             Recycling Coalition of Utah   What does the LHD do to foster collaboration with community stakeholders? Safe Kids and the recycling center maintain an active partnership.  Safe Kids has become a Board member of the Recycling Coalition of Utah and in 2014 received “Recycler of the Year award. Safe Kids attends Sustainability Conferences addressing recycling issues and maintains a data list of recycling companies for future reference. Maintaining a visible working relationship is fundamental in order for recyclers to see that you have a vested interest in recycling. Safe Kids participates in recycling events by promoting car seat recycling as an educational activity.  Safe Kids Salt Lake County Coalition is 40 members strong.  The injury prevention program is involved with many community coalitions, task forces, and special initiatives as are other programs within the health department. Community collaboration is an assurance role of public health in addressing a community health concern.   Describe the relationship(s) and how it furthers the practice goal(s) The fundamental message that stakeholders and recycling car seats invoke is to promote a healthy and safe environment by not sending recyclables to the landfill. The Salt Lake City landfill has been extended from 25 to 50 years because of all the new recycling and addressing options for Salt Lake County. In one voice we promote that manufacturing using recycled materials instead of raw is important. Recovering materials to be recycled is the first step. Locating and identifying companies that are able to remanufacture materials such as car seats into a new consumer products is vital. Adapting to use recycled materials can be a significant investment to both consumers and the environment.   Any start up or in-kind costs and funding services associated with this practice?  Please provide actual data, if possible. Else, provide an estimate of start-up costs/budget breakdown. In order to create a sustainable program the following start-up costs were for sheds, paint and printed materials were necessary. Items                                                                           Cost   (2) Donated 12 ft. x 12 ft. sheds storage sheds          $200 each estimated worth (4) Purchased 10 ft. x 10 ft. sheds                            $567 each (includes shingles and roofing materials) (in-kind discount from Lowes) Recycled Paint                                                         $200 (estimated in-kind donation from hazardous waste turn in facility) Printing fliers, tear pads, children’s color sheet           $300 Transport of car seats to recycler                              8-10 hrs. / month (estimated in-kind donation of health department facilities staff)  
Evaluation   What did you find out? Recycling car seats is an effective endeavor.  The initiative program can be implemented at a relatively low cost or structured through volunteer efforts. Although a toolkit or guide does not exist, the Salt Lake County program can be replicated in any State by accessing the information on the Safe Kids Salt Lake County website.  The video and power point demonstrates the process and educates on the importance of car seat safety and at the same time promotes car seat recycling as the last step in using a car seat. Car seat recycling education that is integrated into any child passenger safety education is well received and welcomed by the parent.   To what extent were your objectives achieved? To date, the objectives have been achieved. The realization is that this has been a work in progress for six years. This was formed from the ground up.  Each year led us to the success we experience today. The first two years were spent forming the infrastructure, simultaneously delivering awareness and education to the public. The following years were spent determining transporting issues and continued education. In its formation, it was difficult to determine how much plastic was being recycled. The current recycling company provides us with a statement every time a car seat is brought to the recycle plant. Pick-ups from the bins are scheduled for six locations. The shed pick-up has increased in frequency due to community awareness of the car seat recycling opportunity. Awareness has also increased to other counties who bring their car seats into Salt Lake County for recycling. Other states such as Idaho and Wyoming have also brought in their car seats for recycling in Salt Lake.   Please re-state your objectives from the methodology section. Objective: Engage community partners to assist with maintaining and expanding car seat recycling drop off locations.      Objective: Collaborate with a local recycler who will use repurposed materials domestically.   Objective: Increase car seat recycling messages through all marketing outlets, including social media.   Objective:  Educate child care givers about car seat expiration dates.           Objective:  Educate community partners about factors that need to be considered with car seats involved in a crash.   Objective: Increase car seat recycling messages within diverse populations who use a high percentage of unusable car seats. Objective: Assist other states in creating a sustainable car seat recycling initiative. Objective: Promote car seat recycling opportunities with local, state and national groups.   Did you evaluate your practice? Yes   List any primary data sources, who collected the data, and how (if applicable) The car seat recycler, Pro Polymer, has reported the total pounds of car seats being delivered to their facility from recycling sheds and special events as follows: -          2014 - 11,089 lbs.             -          2015 (Jan-Aug) - 10,078 lbs.  Total for both years is approximately 9.6 tons of recyclable materials The reports demonstrate increased deposits at recycling sheds (shed can hold approximately 100 car seats) and increased deliveries to the recycling company.  In the year 2014, Safe Kids Salt Lake County received a Recycling Achievement Award for taking an initiative to begin a car seat recycling effort in Salt Lake County, an initiative that had never before been available. The award recognized that during a 6-7 month period 5.49 tons of car seat plastic was recycled.   List any secondary data sources used (if applicable) None             Describe how results were analyzed  As car seats are shipped to the recycling plant, the recycling company provides a report with weight, ton, description (how many Gaylord boxes) and quantity to the health department.               Were any modifications made to the practice as a result of data findings? Yes, an increase in emptying the drop-off shed at the landfill location had to be revised.  Due to the abundance of car seats deposited at the landfill, pick-up was increased to twice a month.  
Sustainability Lessons learned in relation to practice The length of time that it took for Salt Lake County to achieve its goal of providing car seat recycling was lengthy due to the fact that this was a personal passion of the Safe Kids Coordinator. Performing other duties took precedence and car seat recycling was not in the job description. After the initial research, which is necessary, it was like a puzzle.  Figuring out where the puzzle pieces went until you saw the completion was a collaborative partnership with a recycling company and a buy-in with county government. A relationship needs to be established with recycling companies, recycling advocates and other community groups with a shared interest in environmental concerns. Attending summits and conferences to become known is crucial. Taking one step at a time, never losing hope and building momentum are critical steps to moving forward. Car seat recycling is a challenge, but, it can be done.  Being able to say that a car seat is 100% recyclable and that a process has been established is fulfilling.     Lessons learned in relation to partner collaboration (if applicable) Investing in your partners recycling efforts is crucial.  Sit at their table. Get known. Participate in their conferences and events. Giving them credit for your partnership in your fliers, websites, press conferences, and news releases is important.  Partners want to see their name out there. Recognize the partner frequently and acknowledge their support as well as commitment. Meeting at least quarterly with your partner is crucial in order to determine if thing are working well.           Did you do a cost/benefit analysis? If so, describe. No, costs however have been minimal due to creating partnerships and allowing for a win/win attitude.   Is there sufficient stakeholder commitment to sustain the practice? Yes, The recycling company is committed to support the effort long term. Other stakeholder are being sought such as GM dealerships, car seat manufacturers and Safe Kids Worldwide.         Describe sustainability plans Tear pads have been created identifying recycling locations in English and Spanish. Participation in school fairs, safety fairs, and activities pertaining to car seats checkpoints and conferences to create awareness is an ongoing effort. Materials, videos, power points to support other agencies and states that were interested in car seat recycling are available on our website. Eight states have approached Salt Lake County for information as to how to create a car seat recycling program. As a result a video “The Life of a Car Seat” was created to give information to other states indicating that a car seat is 100% recyclable. This video link is also available on the website. Presentations at various conferences have also created further awareness and interest by other states. Recycling materials for children such as Super Recycling heroes Booster Betty and Car Seat Casey have been developed and distributed at local and school fairs. The initiative has been presented at public health conference in Utah, Life Savers in Denver, PrevCon in Maryland and Safe States in Georgia. New stakeholder have been identified and discussions are forthcoming to support car seat recycling.    
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