A trip to the dry cleaners typically means bringing home your freshly cleaned clothes neatly hung on plastic hangers. But after unloading the garments into your closet, you’re left with a pile of empty plastic hangers. This raises the question: Are dry cleaning hangers recyclable? The answer is more complex than you may think.

Dry Cleaning Hanger Materials

First, let’s look at what dry cleaning hangers are made of. There are a few common types:

Plastic

The most ubiquitous are plastic hangers made from polystyrene, polypropylene or PVC. These are lightweight and cheap to produce.

Wire

Some hangers have a sturdy wire frame surrounded by a thin plastic cover or padding. The wire makes them stronger.

Wood

In some cases, wooden hangers are used, though less common from dry cleaners. These are thicker and higher quality.

Metal

Rarely, steel or aluminum metal hangers may be used. These are generally reserved for bulk professional cleaners.

So while there are some material variations, most standard dry cleaning hangers are plastic.

Are Plastic Hangers Recyclable?

Now the main question – can you recycle plastic dry cleaning hangers? Unfortunately, the answer is typically no for a few reasons:

Resin Codes

Those numbered triangles on plastic items indicate the resin type. Most hangers are made of #6 polystyrene which is not widely recyclable.

Small Size

Being lightweight, dry cleaning hangers often fall through the cracks of recycling machinery. Sorting facilities discard small loose items like hangers.

Mixed Materials

Some plastic hangers have metal hooks, rubber padding, foam inserts, making them ineligible for recycling due to material mixes.

Local Policies

Recycling rules vary locally. But most municipal programs do not accept plastic dry cleaning hangers due to the reasons above.

So standard plastic dry cleaning hangers cannot be recycled through normal curbside recycling.

Other Hanger Recycling Options

While standard hangers aren’t recyclable, here are some other options for responsible disposal:

Specialty Recycling

Some recyclers like Terracycle accept used hangers for specialist processing – but often have a fee.

Store Take-Back

Some dry cleaners have recycling bins in store allowing customers to return old hangers for proper recycling. But this is not widely available.

Garment Manufacturer Reuse

A few brands like American Apparel collect hangers to reuse within their own operations, keeping them in circulation longer.

Creative Reuse

DIYers have found ways to transform old hangers into crafts, tools, and more – extending their use. But this is still limited in scope.

Landfill/Incineration

When all else fails, dry cleaners and consumers default to tossing hangers in the garbage which leads to landfill or incineration…not the ideal outcome.

So hangers prove tricky to recycle through standard methods.

Improving Hanger Recyclability

Since traditional plastic hangers pose recycling challenges, what are some solutions to make them more sustainable?

Use Greener Resins

Manufacturing hangers from resin #1 PET or #2 HDPE would improve recyclability. But this costs hangers makers more.

Standardize Designs

Consistency in size, shape, materials would streamline recycling and reduce contamination during disassembly.

Skip Plastic Coating

For wire hangers, eliminating the thin plastic coating would allow easier steel recycling without separation required.

Mark Resin Codes

Clearly marking hangers with resin codes would remove guesswork for recyclers in identifying materials.

Go Bio-Based

Some companies like EcoHanger make hangers from bamboo, cotton and other bio-degradable materials.

Choose Alternate Metals

Stainless steel, copper and aluminum could replace coated wire or plastic – being more valuable metals to recycle.

Adopt Cradle-to-Cradle Policy

Hanger companies could take stewardship over their products through voluntary recycling programs.

Small design tweaks could make hangers more recyclable in the long run.

Hangers: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

While improving hanger recycling options is important, it’s just as critical to reduce usage on the front end. Here are some tips:

Reduce Unnecessary Hangers

Request no hangers for small loads like shirts. Use hangers only when truly needed to avoid waste.

Reuse In-Store Hangers

Return unneeded hangers to the dry cleaner for reuse with future customers. This closes the loop.

Bring Your Own Hangers

Use your own reusable hangers from home – just be sure to label them before dropping off clothes.

Donate Unwanted Hangers

If you accumulate excess hangers, donate to secondhand stores and charities instead of trashing them.

Repurpose Hangers

Get creative with hanger craft projects and hacks like diy hook racks to give old hangers new life.

Consider Hanger Alternatives

Garment folders, reusable garment bags, and rolling racks can replace hangers in some situations.

Dry Cleaning Hanger FAQs

Here are answers to some common questions about dry cleaning hanger recyclability:

Why aren’t most plastic hangers recyclable?

The small size, resin types, material mixes and grease contamination make most plastic hangers incompatible with recycling equipment.

Can you put plastic hangers in curbside recycling?

Unfortunately no – standard municipal recycling programs cannot process plastic dry cleaning hangers. Do not place them in your home recycling bin.

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