Primed for solutions

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Standish resident Karen Baumgaertner believes that her neighbors have “a natural affinity toward waste reduction and sustainability solutions.” That’s why she agreed to help the Recycling Association of Minnesota (RAM) with a pilot program to test the costs and benefits of recycling child car seats.

Karen, the mother of two small children, understands the difficulty of disposing of used car seats safely and responsibly. To begin with, the City of Minneapolis does not accept car seats for recycling.

Child car seats have expiration dates, beyond which they should not be used. The plastic and other materials in car seats deteriorate, eventually rendering them unsafe. The expiration date, generally six years, is stamped on the car seat by the manufacturer. If the car seat has been in an accident, it is also rendered unsafe. Minnesota law bars charities and other nonprofits from accepting used car seats for sale or donation because the history of the car seat is not verifiable.

Unexpired, crashfree car seats might be passed along to friends and relatives. Without this trust connection, however, the only option for disposal is to throw the car seat in the trash. This seems like a big waste to Karen and many of her neighbors.

Recycling Association of Minnesota seeks to promote resource conservation through a variety of initiatives. When the executive director (who is also a friend) asked Karen to set up a drive for used car seats at her workplace, Karen knew that her neighborhood would be a better source. Besides the environmentally friendly atmosphere, she perceived a “nice little baby bump” in Standish and Ericsson.

Karen posted a request for car seats on the neighborhood online forum and within a few days she had 15 on her front steps—more than enough for RAM’s pilot program.

Hennepin County residents can now bring car seats to RAM’s retail store in Wayzata (852 Lake St. E.; www.recycleminnesota.org; call 952-473-0048 for hours). It costs $10 per item. RAM recycles all parts of the seats, and all parts are recycled in Minnesota. RAM also offers drop-off sites in Carver County and in Coon Rapids. A media campaign to encourage recycling of car seats is in the works, but Karen and her neighbors are already primed.