Plastic hangers are one staple item we use to store and hang clothes. Hangers pop up everywhere, from shopping at thrift stores to department stores and retail stores.
Some of us have excess unwanted plastic hangers lying around our closets. Many of these plastic coat hangers end up in the trash can and landfills, contributing to plastic waste.
The big question is; can you recycle plastic hangers? Unfortunately, we cannot readily recycle plastic coat hangers via most curbside collections because they are made of multiple materials, jam machinery, and fail to end up sorted via mechanical facilities. Many of them come in single-use plastics or mixed with different materials like metals and wood, which recycling centers do not accept.
Read on as we explore all you need to know about plastic hanger recycling and what you can do with the unwanted retail plastic hangers lying around your home.
Manufacturers typically make plastic clothes hangers with polystyrene or polycarbonate, with a recycling number of 6 and 7, respectively. These types of plastics are low-grade. While they are technically recyclable, purchasing new ones might be cheaper than recycling them.
Secondly, manufacturing companies make these plastic coat hangers with different plastics (some of which are recyclable and some not), making it difficult for recycling sorting facilities to differentiate. Hence, they are mostly not accepted.
Millions of old plastic hangers are thrown in the landfills, causing pollution. These hangers contain toxic chemicals that are released when piled up in landfills.
Also, just like plastic bags and other plastic items, these plastic coat hangers could take up to a thousand years before they decompose.
Hangers come in other materials like wood, metal, and wire. You can also find more sustainable hangers made of recycled materials.
Wooden hangers are durable and hold out their shape no matter the weight of the clothing. This is unlike plastic or wire hangers that tend to sag after multiple uses. Wood hangers also look more attractive.
While wooden hangers are durable, they, unfortunately, cannot be recycled. Manufacturers mostly treat them with paint or varnish, making them no longer useful for recycling or composting.
Most wooden hangers come with metal hooks which you can remove and add to your metal recycling bin.
You would mostly find wire hangers with dry cleaners as they are inexpensive and readily available.
You may also have some wire hangers lying around from previous trips to the dry cleaners or clothing store.
Wire hangers are quite durable; however, they do not hold out their shape and can cause your clothing to stretch.
So can you put your old wire hangers in the curbside recycling bin? Sadly, most curbside recycling services do not accept wire hangers. This is because they are made of metal and have an odd shape that can damage the recycling equipment.
If your local program mentions collecting hangers, you can drop them off at the curbside bin. However, there might be a few recycling companies that do. Ensure you check with the recycling center near you to find out.
You can also donate them to dry cleaners near you or give them to scrap metal recyclers.
So what do you do with your old hangers? Whether you have wooden, metal, or plastic hangers, here are a few ideas to help you reduce the growing number of unwanted hangers in your home.
Related: Read more on the importance of the 4RS of zero waste, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.
If you have old hangers still in good shape, you can reach out to your family and friends who might be willing to take some of them off you.
There are thrift stores that may offer take-back programs. You can recycle retail hangers by dropping them off at a nearby thrift store. Simply select some used hangers and hand them over to the sales clerk at the store.
If you have old metal hangers in your closet, you can pack them up and drop them back to your local dry cleaner for their day-to-day work. If they accept hangers and you are also dropping off some clothes, ensure you go with your garment bag to avoid plastic film waste.
Instead of throwing away your old coat hangers, you can give them out to charity organizations that may accept clothing and hangers if they are still in good condition. Also, you can give them out on sites like Freecycle and Craigslist for free. You can check out their website for guidelines you need to follow.
Related: How to minimize your wardrobe
Here are a few other creative ways you can use your old hangers:
Related: 20 tips for recycling at home
Today, many stores and brands are looking for ways to reuse, repair, and recycle hangers. These companies are also using more sustainable materials to make their clothes hangers. Here are a few examples of some companies and brands reducing waste through recycling programs:
Hangers will always be relevant to storing our clothes. However, most plastic hangers present some difficulties from the recycling bin to the recycling facility.
One way to reduce the number of unwanted hangers is not to take them home when you go shopping. You can drop them at the counter instead. Alternatively, you can donate your metal, plastic, and wooden hangers to charity, drop them off at a thrift store or dry cleaners or creatively repurpose them as we have suggested above.
Jen’s a passionate environmentalist and sustainability expert. With a science degree from Babcock University Jen loves applying her research skills to craft editorial that connects with our global changemaker and readership audiences centered around topics including zero waste, sustainability, climate change, and biodiversity.
Elsewhere Jen’s interests include the role that future technology and data have in helping us solve some of the planet’s biggest challenges.