Any safety feature in a car, whatever it may be, cannot be used if it has any kind of fault or if it has fulfilled its main purpose: protecting the occupant following a collision. The following examples speak for themselves: an airbag must be replaced after being deployed in an accident; a seat belt that has been over-stressed while protecting the occupant must be replaced; and the same applies to child seats.
Indeed, in the case of child restraint systems there are other factors that need to be taken into account, such as the purchase date and the expiry date, i.e. the date after which it cannot be guaranteed that it will fulfill its child protection purpose. This is a delicate issue which should not be taken lightly and there are certain implications to bear in mind.
For example, a second-hand child seat might be a doubtful proposition because you don't know the full history of the device; i.e. whether it has ever been involved in a collision; you might also have doubts if you don’t know exactly when it was bought or what the recommended use-by date is.
However, there are alternatives, such as a proposal in the United States to promote the recycling of child restraint systems to help protect the environment and at the same time give some of the seats components a second life. This project began in 2012 and offers some very good reasons why parents should recycle their old or unserviceable child seats. The secondary objective (and just as important) is to prevent other children from traveling in unsuitable seats.
WHY DO CHILD RESTRAINT SYSTEMS HAVE A LIMITED USEFUL LIFE?
There are many reasons and given below are some of the most important ones:
- The passing of time affects the components. All child restraint systems have a use-by date on the sticker, normally found on the side of the seat. After this time its safety cannot be guaranteed because the condition of the plastic components of the seat can change over time, making it more fragile and less able to resist the forces unleashed in a collision. Fundación MAPFRE recommends changing your CRS after six years.
- In a collision, the plastic components in the seat are subject to tremendous stresses which can cause internal fractures that are impossible to see but, in the event of a second collision, could destroy the seat, leaving the child unprotected. This is why they must be replaced.
- There are other types of damage that can also go unnoticed, especially if you haven’t been involved in any kind of accident, such as wear-and-tear damage to the securing belts, the buckles of the harnesses or any other plastic part that may be worn or damaged (for example, if you drop the CRS when putting it into the car).
- Batch recalls or obsolete technology. Sometimes manufacturers will issue warnings about structural or other production faults to a CRS, giving users the chance to return the seat to the factory for repair or recommending its destruction. In all these cases you should take heed of these warnings because safety always comes first.
Recycling child restraint systems does not necessarily mean donating them to be repaired and re-sold. It means that the seat will be dismantled, separating all the different components (plastic, metal, foam, etc.) so each one can be processed and then separated into specific types of plastics or metals. Plastics are crushed and packaged in huge bales to be sent to plastic reprocessing plants, while metals are sent to metal processing plants to be reused or recycled.
This kind of initiative helps to improve our children’s safety be removing faulty units from the market and at the same time helps to protect the environment by keeping unusable child seats away from rubbish dumps.