You can not recycle plastic coat hangers through conventional curbside recycling. They tend to contain more than one plastic resin type (or other contaminants) and sometimes get stuck in the machinery due to their shape. Certain specialized recycling programs can process them.
Please note: Recycling guidelines may vary depending on local regulations and facilities. The information provided here is intended as a general guide and may not apply to your specific location or item. Always check with your local recycling center or municipal authority for the most accurate and up-to-date recycling information in your area.
Typical RIC Symbols Used
While #5 Polypropylene is technically recyclable, it is rarely processed. Its recycling rate is barely touching 1%.
The #6 Polystyrene plastic category is very difficult to recycle. No method is yet available to achieve economic sustainability.
Where To Recycle
- Use Recycling Locators: Locate specialized recycling programs near you using RecycleNation & Earth911 (US) or RecycleNow (UK).
- Target Recycling: Target stores accept unwanted hangers. They will upcycle them and reuse them multiple times before recycling them to create brand-new coat hangers.
- Donate to thrift shops: A very creative way to get rid of your excess coat hangers is to donate them to a thrift shop. I am sure they will gladly take them from you for free.
- Give them away on FreeCycle: If you just want to give them away, you can always use the FreeCycle website and create a post for free.
Ways To Reduce Waste
You can purchase coat hangers made from recycled plastic or switch entirely to wooden ones. Just make sure they originate from companies that use Responsible Forestry Practices.
Table of Contents
Why Are Plastic Hangers So Hard To Recycle?
Since recycling centers need a constant flow of plastic waste to function, the machines were designed with plastic bottles and containers in mind. These two item categories represent the majority of plastic waste.
“How does a plastic clothes hanger differ so much from those items that I can’t recycle it?” you might ask. That’s a valid question. Here are the reasons that make them so hard to recycle.
They get stuck in machinery.
Let’s both admit it; coat hangers are oddly shaped. I am not trying to hurt their feelings, I swear, but the truth must be told.
Their sharp and pointy edges make them very difficult to process. They often get stuck in the weirdest of places forcing the machine operators to get involved. The last thing you want is to pause the whole recycling process for a measly coat hanger.
Ok, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but it does happen, just not a lot. Still, it is enough of a trouble that turns most recycling facilities away from processing them. The risk-reward ratio is too big.
They might contain contaminants.
Contain contaminants. Is that a tongue-twister, or am I just bad at pronouncing stuff? Anyways.
Some types of plastic coat hangers contain multiple types of material or many types of the same. In plastic recycling (or recycling in general), the last thing you want is to introduce “foreign” material into the batch. This is what is called a contaminant.
The most prevalent contaminants present on plastic coat hangers are:
- The coat hanger metal hook.
- Other non-recyclable plastic resins.
- Decorative material.
All of the above have the potential to ruin a whole batch of recyclable material if they make their way into the recycling process. This is why sorting and categorizing are so crucial.
They’ve been downcycled too much.
A substantial amount of plastic coat hangers circulating the market are actually byproducts of recycling. Why does this matter, though?
As you might already know, you can not infinitely recycle plastic. The polymer structure degrades after every recycling cycle, hence why it is called “downcycling”. The same fate awaits all plastic hangers.
Have you ever experienced a coat hanger that feels flimsy and eventually breaks without applying any pressure or stress?
Practically the quality and characteristics that make plastic a wonder material fade away, making the hangers more brittle and prone to breaking. After a certain point, you can not recycle the material anymore.
Can You Put Plastic Coat Hangers In The Recycling Bin?
In most cases, you shouldn’t put plastic coat hangers inside your curbside recycling bin. As mentioned above, they are rarely recycled; the proper disposal method is throwing them in the garbage bin.
The only exception to that rule is if you know for a fact your local recycling program accepts them or if there is a specialized recycling program near you.
Can You Recycle Plastic Hangers At Home?
For some odd reason, this is a common question amongst recycling enthusiasts, but I’ll have to disappoint. For the vast majority of people, the answer is no. You can not recycle plastic coat hangers at home.
I am confident some “crazy science guy” already has a video on how to do it on youtube, but I wouldn’t encourage you to follow along.
Recycling requires specialized equipment to work and can pose a health hazard if done without proper safety protocols. I advise you to stick to upcycling and repurposing instead.
Can You Recycle Plastic Hangers With Metal Hooks?
You can not recycle plastic coat hangers regardless of the metal hook. Although, if you locate a specialized recycling program that accepts them, it is standard etiquette to adequately prepare the clothes hanger by removing the hook.
You can use a pair of metal pliers to dislodge it gently. Try not to snap the metal hook and leave any pieces inside. Such contaminants can ruin the recycling process.
Do Retail Stores Accept Plastic Coat Hangers For Recycling?
Some retailers offer recycling programs for plastic hangers, encouraging customers to return them for reuse or recycling. The following retailers are known for accepting hangers:
Walmart does have a community recycling hub that accepts most plastic items, but they don’t mention plastic coat hangers anywhere on their website. It is worth a shot contacting your nearest store just in case.
Goodwill doesn’t have a recycling program for plastic coat hangers but a donation program instead. Contact your nearest Goodwill and ask if they need spare plastic coat hangers.
You can recycle your unwanted plastic coat hangers using Target’s recycling program. Since 1994 they’ve been accepting and repurposing plastic clothes hangers, extending their lifetime significantly.
After using them beyond their intended lifecycle, they ground them up utilizing their closed-loop recycling system, creating freshly recycled hangers.
Currently, Tesco seems only to accept plastic bags and films for recycling. There is no mention of plastic coat hangers in their recycling efforts directory on their website. However, I spotted an article from 2019 mentioning that coat hanger return units are currently under testing.
I’ll update this section if they implement it in any meaningful capacity. Until then, you can’t recycle coat hangers at Tesco.
Are Black Coat Hangers Recyclable?
Black plastic items have an infamous reputation for being hard to recycle. While that is partially a myth, the origin story is interesting and has merit.
Most curbside recycling facilities recognize and robotically sort plastic waste using optical systems. Those systems have a tough time identifying black items and often let them pass through, throwing them out of the recycling loop.
As you can see, the problem is mainly in the inability of the sorting system. Black plastic hangers are technically recyclable, but not through curbside recycling hubs.
What Are The Benefits Of Recycling Plastic Hangers?
That should be obvious. Every year millions of plastic hangers are produced and discarded after minimal use. Usually, they just end up in a landfill to degrade for hundreds of years. But what would happen in an alternate scenario where we recycle them?
Here are the most prevalent benefits of recycling plastic coat hangers:
- Reduced plastic waste in landfills.
- Reduced microplastics in the ecosystem.
- Reduced toxins from degrading plastic.
- Reduced plastic material that ends up in the water.
If you dig deeper into each of the above, you’ll find even more benefits, but the ones that make most of the difference are already mentioned.
I Can’t Recycle My Plastic Coat Hangers. Should I Donate Them?
Well, of course you should. Donating is a kind gesture that actively helps others and prevents plastic coat hangers from ending up in the ecosystem. Killing two birds with one stone! The question now becomes, where does one donate hangers?
Who would want them and why? If we allow ourselves to be a bit creative, we’ll come up with the following ideas:
- Thrift Shops: Oh boy, do they go through plastic coat hangers. Thrift shops are a great place to donate your old, unused hangers and give them a second chance in life.
- Dry Cleaners: Dry cleaners are another business that will gladly take the hangers out of your hands for free. Just like thrift shops, they use an insane amount of hangers daily and would never say no to them.
- FreeCycle: A great resource and alternative to Craigslist is FreeCycle. Unlike other platforms, FreeCycle is used for a specific reason: to give away stuff for free to upcycle them. What a great way to find people that might need your hangers am I right?
Depending on where you live, there might be other establishments that will gladly accept your plastic hangers. Some notable mentions might be community centers, homeless shelters, and retail stores.
Find the ones that fit your situation and location, and give them a call to make sure they do actually accept donations.
How Do You Dispose Of Old Plastic Coat Hangers?
The best way to dispose of old plastic hangers is not to dispose of them in the first place. Before throwing them in the garbage bin, try to recycle them using a specialized hanger recycling program or donate them to an establishment that needs them.
What Are Plastic Coat Hangers Usually Made Of?
Plastic coat hangers are either made of Polypropylene (#5) plastic or Polystyrene (#6) plastic.
Creative Ways To Reuse & Repurpose Plastic Coat Hangers.
Use popular online forums and websites like Reddit and Pinterest to find creative ideas on how you can reuse & repurpose your plastic coat hangers. Here is a great place to start and get the ball rolling: Hanger Repurposing Ideas.