Can you recycle plastic hangers
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Can You Recycle Plastic Hangers?

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. 

What’s wrong with plastic hangers? 

Whats wrong with plastic hangers
Photo by Artem Beliaikin on Unsplash

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, most plastic hangers are not accepted. 

Millions of old plastic hangers are thrown into 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. 

Other materials used in making clothes hangers 

Hangers come in other materials like wood, metal, and wire. You can also find more sustainable hangers made of recycled materials. 

Wooden hangers

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. 

Can you recycle wood hangers? 

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 that you can remove and add to your metal recycling bin. 

Wire hangers 

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 stores. 

Wire hangers are quite durable; however, they do not hold out their shape and can cause your clothing to stretch. 

Can you recycle wire hangers? 

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 recycle 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. 

What to do with old coat hangers 

What to do with old hangers
Photo by Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash

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.

Give them to family and friends  

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. 

Drop them off at a store 

There are stores that may offer take-back programs. You can recycle retail hangers by dropping them off at a nearby second-hand store. Simply select some used hangers and hand them over to the sales clerk at the store. 

Give them to your dry cleaner 

If you have old metal hangers in your closet, you can pack them up and drop them back at 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. 

Donate to charity organizations 

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

Creative ways to repurpose your old hangers

Here are a few other creative ways you can use your old hangers: 

  • You can use your old metal hangers to support weak plants in your garden. 
  • You can use your wire hanger to unclog your drainage at home. All you need to do is fold up the hook to create a thin metal wire that can pass through the drainage. 
  • Your old metal hangers can also come in handy when you’re out camping. You can use them to roast marshmallows at your campfire. 
  • You can use your wire hanger to create a wreath. Simply bend the hanger to form a circle. You can then attach some flowers or greenery to the wire. 
  • You can use your wire hanger to store some of your flat shoes and flip-flops. Simply stretch out your hanger and create unique shoe storage.
  • You can use your wire hanger to hold some books, magazines, or photos
  • You might have some ribbons, threads, and tapes that need organizing. Using your old wire hanger, you can slip them on the spools and hang them for use. 

Related: 20 tips for recycling at home

The future of clothing hangers  

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:

  • Since 1994, Target has been running a recycling program where manufacturers recycle old plastic and metal hangers to make other items like flower pots and garden supplies. You can easily return hangers from Target back to them. Also, when you shop for clothes at Target, you can leave your hangers at the register. 
  • Marks and Spencer in the UK runs a recycling program that allows shoppers to return any unwanted hangers from M&S. The store collects hangers and reuses them, thereby reducing their carbon footprint. 
  • Arch and Hook use eco-friendly materials like timber with FSC certification. They also use recycled content like marine plastic, post-consumer plastic, and ocean-bound plastic for their BLUE hangers. 
  • Ditto makes their hangers using recycled paper. They also make use of natural adhesives and vegetable dyes.
  • First Mile, a recycling company in London, accepts broken or unwanted plastic and metal hangers and repurposes them. All you need to do is remove any foam, fabric, or paper from your hangers, stack them up in a sack, and turn them in. 
  • The Green Hanger eco coat hanger comes in recycled cardboard. You can also recycle them over and over again. 

Wrapping up   

Hangers will always be relevant to storing our clothes. However, recycling plastic hangers present some difficulties from the recycling bin to the recycling facility. 

One way to reduce the number of unwanted plastic 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.

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