Evenflo Tackles Recycling at Their Manufacturing Plant

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Car seat manufacturers are continually testing their products to ensure safety. But once those car seats have been tested, what do the manufacturers do with them? Are recycling options as difficult to identify for manufacturers as they are for consumers?
They are – as Eric Dahle, the Director of Engineering at Evenflo, discovered eight years ago when Evenflo began to search for something to do with their crash-tested seats besides putting them in the landfill. With perseverance and a partnership with a local recycler, Evenflo has been able to divert those seats (approximately 2,400 a year) from the landfill by recycling, and is even using some of the recycled plastics from their plant in their products.

Evenflo’s manufacturing plant is in Ohio, which means that the company has tight control of its manufacturing practices. It also means that designers and engineers can visualize the problems created by waste – from the dollars and cents cost of disposing of materials to the sight of truckloads of trash being hauled off to the landfill. This motivated Evenflo to tackle the problem of recycling their test seats, both because it made economic sense, and because it was the right thing to do.

Evenflo identified a recycling processor who was willing to work with the company to ensure that its recycling materials were kept separate from materials that were gathered from other sources. In so doing, they were able to control how many times the plastic was recycled. Evenflo pays this local processer to re-process the plastic materials generated in their production so that is can be reused.  Evenflo then uses the recycled material for non-critical molded items like covers, caps, cup holders and other non-safety-related components in their products.

For recycling the crash-tested seats, Evenflo must disassemble the car seats and separate their components.  They remove the soft parts – covers, straps and comfort foam – for which there is no current recycling market. The remaining hard foam, plastics and metal in the seat are then separated, with each material bundled separately and then sent off for recycling.

Additionally, Evenflo recycles car seats that come back through their complaint department.  Sometimes they even recycle some of their competitors’ seats that make it into the system from seat check events or other sources.  Since these materials are less controlled and there are possible contaminants, Evenflo does not use these materials in their new products, instead recycling these car seats through a different company that mechanically breaks them down and separates their components for recycling. Evenflo also recycles corrugated cardboard, metal, plastic, paper, wood and many other items from its production processes.  In total, more than 2 million pounds of material is diverted from the landfill every year.

Is there room to expand so that consumers can have their seats recycled?  Dahle hopes that in the future the economics can be made to work so that seats used by consumers can also be diverted from the landfills around the country. He sees local processing and regional recycling networks as key to the solution in order to keep costs and transportation costs to a minimum.  It works for Evenflo to recycle their test seats because there is lots of manufacturing in the Midwest that generates demand for recycled materials.

Old Car Seat, New Life commends Evenflo for setting a positive example of what manufacturers can do to reduce waste and reuse materials in their manufacturing facility. While child passenger safety is certainly any parent’s first consideration for purchasing a car seat, it is helpful to know that one of the leading car seat manufacturers has taken this step to consider the long term health and future of our children and the planet we inhabit.