When you went to college you most likely picked out a color scheme. For your XL twin sheets, the double-sided comforter, the butterfly chair you still have somewhere, and the hangers!
Recycled plastic hangers weren’t a thing yet so you went to Wal-Mart or Target and got the cheapest, because, college. Those hangers served you well over the 4+ years and made all the trips back and forth with you.
Some made it to your first apartment, some didn’t.
Over time more hangers broke — in the car, the suitcase, from a too-heavy winter coat and you finally decided you needed adult hangers.
But what do you do with the old ones?
- Can’t recycle them
- Goodwill won’t take them
- Salvation Army is a nope
And how do you decide on new ones?
You want something that will last you a long time and something that’s easier on the planet would be great.
- The felt ones look nice, too bad 3 broke on impact.
- The wooden ones look super fancy but are slippery.
- The wire ones bend too easily.
If you’re incorporating more sustainable practices or actively shopping for new hangers, let’s talk about the pros and cons of 7 different types of hangers.
And of course, why we think ( r e )ˣ recycled plastic hangers are the best choice for your clothes and the environment.
Pros and Cons of 7 Different Types of Clothing Hangers
1. Plastic Hangers
Anything designed to be broken (planned obsolescence) is a failure in our opinion; and that’s exactly what plastic hangers do.
Once they break, plastic hangers are not recyclable in most municipalities so even if you send it to the recycling center, it’s getting landfilled.
Once in the landfill, they sit for hundreds of years slowly leaching chemicals into the soil and groundwater supply; are blown away by the wind, or carried off by animals.
- Lots of colors and styles
- Made of mixed plastics including Polystyrene (#6) and BPA, Polycarbonate and LEXAN (#7)
- Often manufactured in China
- Not recyclable
- Short lifespan
- Designed to break
- Slippery and bendy
- End up in landfills leaching chemicals into the ground
2. Wire and Metal Hangers
You’re probably using wire hangers only if they were free, but just in case you find another article glorifying them, let’s talk.
Wire hangers are pretty easily malleable which can be fun if you’re in need of an emergency set of fairy wings, a halo, or a giant paper clip.
Culturally though — c’mon you didn’t think we were going to leave this out — wire hangers will always be a significant representation of women being forced to take action when governing bodies put restrictions and limitations on their ability to make a choice for their bodies (past and present).
- Can donate back to dry cleaners
- Can easily be upcycled into crafts, decorations, or plant accessories
- Sometimes made from recycled metal (galvanized steel, rubber-coated steel) but not always
- Most likely contain a thin lacquer or plastic coating.
- Bendable and easily misshapen
- They carry the stigma around women’s healthcare
- Slippery for your clothes
- Not good for shaping your clothes
- Likely to snag your clothes
- They can rust
- Sometimes curbside recyclable, not usually
- Recyclable at a scrap metal facility (also a pro)
3. Velvet, Satin, and Fabric Hangers
When you think about ‘adult hangers’, you might think of velvet hangers. They’re super slim and nonstick which means they help you cram as many clothes on your clothing rod as possible. Plus they look nice and mature.
But the velvet, satin, or fabric material is often a blend of synthetic fibers if not entirely synthetic, and impossible to separate for proper recycling.
Additionally, the velvet, satin, or fabric is wrapped around a plastic interior anyway so it’s still a form of a plastic hanger. It’s a little bit more sturdy and slimmer, but just as bad for the planet.
- More durable than a thin plastic hanger
- Kinda cute
- Flimsy & weak
- Velvet, Satin, & Fabric are wrapped around plastic
- Velvet is a synthetic material (or mostly synthetic)
- Not recyclable
- They attract dirt, dust, and lint over time
- Often manufactured in China
- Semi-easily breakable
- Will not last a lifetime
- End up in landfills leaching chemicals from the dyes and plastic into the ground
4. Wooden Hangers
Wood is a natural, renewable material, but purchasing wood hangers that you’re not intending to keep for a lifetime, and beyond, directly contributes to deforestation and the removal of people and ecosystems. Harsh, but true.
In order to achieve the shine and smoothness of a wooden hanger, most are treated with a varnish that renders the wood un-biodegradable. Those finishes often contain volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) which have been linked to adverse effects on the environment and in humans.
It’s possible to invest in a higher quality wooden hanger that doesn’t contain the VOCs and comes from a sustainably managed forest, but why pay more to continuously have to pick your coat up off the ground?
- The potential to last a lifetime
- Wood is a renewable, natural resource
- Can be upcycled and given a new life with some creativity
- Durability and strength
- Have to research if the wood comes from a sustainably managed forest
- The wood is almost always treated with varnish
- Not recyclable or compostable (due to varnish)
- Varnish often contains VOCs (volatile organic compounds) linked to air pollution and health effects
- Wire hook is not easily recyclable (may be at a scrap metal facility)
- Contribute to deforestation
- Not easily disposed of; it’s highly possible they end up in a landfill leaching VOCs into the ground
5. Bamboo Hangers
Bamboo is all the rage these days and for a good reason! The bamboo plant is a grass rather than a tree and is extremely fast-growing and low-maintenance. As it is a grass a bamboo forest can regenerate in 4-5 years vs. the hundreds of years a tree-based forest takes. We love that!
But there is a downside. Bamboo is an invasive plant; because it is so fast-growing once it’s planted it’s extremely difficult to control and manage.
The other downside of increased bamboo use is mono-cropping. Mono-cropping occurs when a plant is farmed year after year on the same soil. Rotating crops helps to provide nutrients to the soil and strengthens it; mono-cropping does the opposite essentially stripping the soil of nutrients.
Lastly, it is likely bamboo is sealed with a varnish or stain. If you decide to go this route be sure to research the company.
- Bamboo is a renewable, natural resource
- If not managed properly, bamboo is mono-cropped (which destroys the soil) and an invasive plant
- Contain a wire hook which may or may not be easily recycled
- Unless otherwise mentioned, they are likely coated with a stain or varnish
- To biodegrade, they need to meet the right conditions, which will not happen in a landfill
6. Cardboard Hangers
Slowly making their way onto the scene are cardboard hangers. Some are made from 100% recycled paper products already in circulation, some are not, and some still contain a plastic or wire component.
Any way you hang it they’re better than virgin plastic hangers but these might be better left to retail stores looking to make a public statement in favor of sustainability.
For all the moving, tugging, adjusting, adding, pushing, pulling, and whatever else that happens in your closet, cardboard hangers are not here for a lifetime of use. As long as they’re coming from recycled cardboard they make a great alternative but we love keeping our ecosystems free from plastic.
- Natural, renewable material
- Recyclable and recycled
- No plastic sent to the landfill
- Easily breakable
- Not designed to last a long time
- Unsupportive of heavy clothes including sweaters, coats, dresses, suits, and more
- You will find your clothes on the ground
- Not always plastic/wire-free
7. Recycled Plastic Hangers
It’s obvious this is our favorite and most recommended hanger.
There are others trying and failing to imitate what we do and it’s simply because we put the time, energy, and effort into creating a 100% recycled plastic hanger. We’ll let the pros and cons speak for themselves.
- Keeps virgin plastic out of landfills and oceans
- Made from 100% recycled plastic (not 99%, not 99.9%)
- 50% thicker than the average hanger and much stronger
- Ridges along the arms keep your clothes in place
- Large notches keep clothes secure and on the hanger
- A reinforced bridge creates extra durability for pants, blankets, suits, and more
- There are up to 2 pounds of plastic in each hanger no longer in the environment
- The recycled plastic is collected by reclaimers in South Africa, giving new life to products and creating jobs
- Fun colors that tell you the story of what type of plastic was recycled
- Packaging is made from 100% recycled and biodegradable materials, hand printed and assembled by a single moms group in South Africa
- We offer a growing-up discount
- The ability to continuously be recycled and remade into more hangers
- The colors can vary a bit due to the availability of what is collected and intercepted
- ( r e )ˣ only makes adult and kids’ hangers (for now)
Each year 8 billion hangers end up in a landfill. That’s enough to fill the Empire State Building from the basement to the observation deck 4x every year.
We’re done with that.
We’re done with plastic waste.
We’re done with polluting the environment.
We set out to be different. The plastic has already been made. We’re working to create something useful and keep it out of the oceans and landfills. We’re creating jobs, we’re creating a circular economy, and quite frankly we’re creating a better product.
The next time your hanger breaks or you’re thinking about an upgrade, think about the planet. Think about supporting us and everything we stand for. And remember —we want your recycled plastic hanger to last a lifetime (and we have not had any break so far).