The wire coat hanger was first patented in 1890, with its plastic counterpart invented in the 1960s. Since then, there’s been very little innovation so, much like the humble paperclip or elastic band, they’re now so taken for granted that they may as well be invisible.
The problem with coat hangers
The impact of coat hangers on the environment isn’t so insignificant, however. Research suggests Britain has 540 million surplus hangers, weighing 17,000 tonnes. It’s also estimated that as many as 100 million a year are thrown away just in the UK. Unsurprisingly, most people don’t know if they can recycle hangers.
Coat hangers are embedded into our fashion industry with many garments arriving at stores on clothes hangers, ready to be unpacked and put straight out for display. And with the impact of fast fashion on the environment such a hot topic in recent years, we’re committed to doing what we can to make it easier for businesses to be more sustainable.
But can you recycle coat hangers? Thankfully, the answer is yes.
How to recycle plastic hangers
There have been great improvements in the recycling of all types of plastic in recent years, so does this apply to plastic coat hangers? If you have no use for the plastic hangers you have accumulated, the best type of recycling would be to see if someone else wants them. Charity shops may be glad of your old plastic coat hangers, and if you bundle them together you might be able to get rid of them at a car boot sale or on a website like Freecycle.
If nobody wants you're old plastic hangers, you probably won't be able to recycle them with your usual household recycling, but your local household recycling centres may take them. Alternatively, look for a specialist clothes hanger recycling service that'll be able to make sure your plastic hangers don't end up in landfill.
How to recycle metal hangers
Of the many different types of clothes hangers, metal hangers are probably the least practical, in terms of how well they actually 'hang' your clothes, not to mention how 'easy' they are to store - as most of us who've had to untangle a mass of these wire hangers well know.
If you can't give these away to be reused (again, charity shops and dry cleaners may take them off your hands), old wire hangers could also be used in crafts, metal work, or other activities around the house. If you have more than is practical to hang on to, however, you won't be able to put metal hangers in your household recycling containers, but will be able to get rid of them at your local recycling centres, or you might find that scrap metal dealers will take your wire hangers if you have a lot of them.
How to recycle wooden coat hangers
Of all the different types of hangers, wooden hangers are probably the best for your clothes, and the type of clothes hangers you're more likely to want to hold on to. Having said that, if you do find you have too many and can't find anyone to give them to, these clothes hangers can also be recycled.
Again, a specialist service offering recycling collections for clothes hangers, like the one offered by First Mile, will be able to properly dispose of your wooden coat hangers for you; or your local household waste centre will probably recycle wood - but check if you need to separate any metal parts.
The future for coat hangers
The clothing and fashion industry has a lot of sustainability issues it needs to get better at tackling, and the millions of clothes hangers in circulation is just one of them. Improvements are being made, slowly, with hangers made of recycled or more easily recyclable materials, but more can be done.
The coat hangers we collect are sorted at our award-winning facility, the Sacktory®, and then forwarded to our recycling partner, Endurmeta, where they are shredded and granulated, with the separated plastic and metal then sent for reuse and repurposing.
In the meantime, if you find yourself with more hangers than you need, follow these simple tips to help tackle hanger waste:
Offer hangers you don’t use or want to charity shops or to your local community via free sites
If you don’t need a hanger when you’re buying clothes, tell the retailer you don’t want it and leave it in the store
Some retailers offer collection bins for unwanted hangers, so you can “drop before you shop”
If you need coat hangers at home, consider investing in wood or strong cardboard ones that are more sustainable