So many of my clients have old infant car or booster seats taking up valuable space in the garage or attic because they don't know what to do once they've expired. By law, you can't sell or even donate them at that point. It may seem like a racket, but over time the molded plastic loses strength from being in all temperatures over the years and can't be guaranteed to hold up in the impact of a crash. And if the seat has ever been involved in a crash, even if no child was in it at the time, it should also be discarded.
How do you know if it's expired? Many seats have a printed expiration on the bottom, the back, or on a manufacturing sticker. If not, you may need to call the company with the serial number. Here's a great, detailed explanation.
If you know it's expired, what can you do? You have several options:
1) About twice a year Toys R Us/Babies R Us has a trade-in event, which is happening now until Feb. 20! They'll accept expired gear and you get a coupon for the store.
2) AAA Car Care Centers partner with Wal-Mart to do a similar event, happening throughout February this year. You can turn in seats to a AAA repair shop or to participating Wal-Marts (in the Hampton Roads area, this includes the Yorktown and both Newport News locations but NOT Williamsburg) and you get a $5 coupon to Wal-Mart. You do not need to be a AAA member but there is a 2-seat limit per person.
Both of these are fantastic options since they will responsibly recycle and dispose of the materials for free and you get a coupon.
3) Otherwise, you must dispose of seats yourself. You can disassemble them and recycle the metal and plastic (assuming your recycling accepts that type of plastic). If you don't have recycling pickup, you can take the pieces to a county recycling center. Then the rest of the seat goes in the garbage or to a dump. It's a shame, but that's about all that can be done responsibly.
If you have other solutions, please let us know!