How to Recycle Old Baby Gear

Did your afternoon of spring cleaning turn into a week-long purge of everything in your house, including all your old baby gear? 

Between baby shower gifts and impulse online shopping, you’ve probably accumulated a ton of baby stuff. But your baby has outgrown it and you don’t have any space (or need) to store it, so now what do you do with it? 

You have four options: you can sell it, donate it, throw it away, or recycle it. If you have old baby gear that’s expired, worn out, or broken, here’s how you can recycle it.

Car Seats

When your old car seat can no longer be used, whether it’s damaged, been in a car accident, been recalled, or expired, don’t throw it in the trash. Some of its parts may still be able to be used. 

There are different ways you can recycle an old car seat. You can call your car seat manufacturer and see if they offer any kind of recycling program, or Target does an annual car seat trade-in event. To participate in Target’s event, simply drop off any type of old car seat, even one that is expired or damaged, and Target will give you a coupon to use in-store. In the past, people have been given a coupon for 20% off a new car seat, stroller, or another select baby gear item. Keep your eyes and ears open as a few other stores have also done trade-in promotions like this and may do one again in the future. You can also visit Recycle Your Car Seat’s website for a list of different recycling programs throughout the U.S. that are accepting used car seats.

Breast Pumps

Did you use a Medela breast pump? Through the Medela Recycles program, you can send back the motor and cord of your unwanted Medela breast pump. For most other types of manual breast pumps, you can put the pump, breast shields, and tubing into your curbside recycling container for your area’s recycling service to pick up.

Crib Mattresses

Nearly 18 million mattresses are thrown away each year in the U.S., with most of those ending up in the landfill or incinerator. But according to the Mattress Recycling Council, more than 80% of mattresses can be recycled. Use this recycling locator to learn where you can more responsibly dispose of an old crib mattress.

Stuffed Animals

You can’t usually donate old stuffed animals to Goodwill or your local women’s shelter because of the potential of germs being on them, but most pet shelters will accept them. Check with your local shelter and be sure to ask if they have any safety guidelines, as some types of stuffed animals or materials may not be safe for animals.

Paper Books

Schools, libraries, and churches will often take gently-used books. But if you have some paper books that are ripped, colored on, or otherwise irreparable, you can put them in your paper recycling bin.

Small Baby Items

There are some smaller baby items you can simply put in your recycling bin to be picked up curbside when you no longer need or want them, including:

  • Baby bottles
  • Breast milk bags
  • Sippy cups
  • Plastic baby utensils, plates, and bowls
  • Baby food jars (food pouches and caps aren’t acceptable)
  • Baby bathtubs
  • Diaper pails
  • Wipe dispensers.

You may want to double-check that some of these are accepted by your city’s recycling service, such as baby food jars (glass) and baby tubs and diaper pails (rigid plastics).

Recycling Programs

Like Target and Medela, there are other companies that offer recycling programs for old baby gear. Many will take your old or gently-used items, and then give you a discount to their store or donate your old baby gear to a local charity or to families in need. 

TerraCycle is one company that accepts just about any kind of baby gear. While you do have to buy a Zero Waste Box, fill it with your old baby gear, and ship it back to Terracycle, you are paying for the ultimate convenience of recycling all or some of your old baby stuff at once. Once Terracycle receives your box, its employees manually or mechanically separate the waste by materials, and then reuse, recycle, or upcycle them as permitted. Terracycle accepts tons of used baby gear, including baby carriers, small baby toys, playmats, teething rings, bouncers, pacifiers, and much more. Terracycle cannot accept baby clothes, electronic baby toys, toys with batteries, or baby diapers.

Ergobaby is another company that is all about sustainability. With its Everlove program, you can send in your gently-used baby carrier for a new family to use. Ergobaby employees thoroughly inspect and clean every carrier before reselling them. In return for your eligible carrier, you’ll receive either a $50 gift card to Ergobaby, a $20 gift card to a retailer of your choice, or a $30 donation to Baby2Baby made on your behalf.

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Kirsten Metcalf is a writer, editor and mother to a hilarious but very strong-willed toddler and a beautiful baby girl. She started writing short stories in elementary school and years later became a sports reporter and editor. Now, she mainly writes marketing, religious and parenting-related blog posts. Even before she knew she wanted to be a writer, Kirsten knew she wanted to be a mom. She knows being a mom is one of the most rewarding but hardest jobs out there, which is why she loves being able to share parenting knowledge and support to other moms through her writing. When she actually wins negotiations with her toddler, Kirsten likes to reward herself by watching KU basketball, eating cheesecake, or going on a Target run by herself.