Why plastic hangers should be replaced with paper ones

An estimated 10–85 billion hangers are produced worldwide annually. At least 85% of these end up landfilled. Why we can’t tell you the specific numbers? The industry is not that transparent about these facts. What we do know is that plastic hangers could easily be replaced by paper ones, which offer a circular solution. Pieter, one of the founders of NORMN Hangers, gives us a clear view on the recycling problem and the lack of transparency.

So why are plastic hangers so difficult to recycle?

It’s about the shape. Standard plastic recycling systems are not geared to take the shape of plastic hangers. This means that when placed into standard bins (even those marked for plastic), they will actually end up in the paper side at the recycling facilities. These plastic hangers then contaminate a valuable paper waste stream. These general sorting systems are pretty much standard all over the world, having had billions invested in them, so changing these involve immense infrastructural change. Our paper hangers, on the other hand, are of course meant to end up with the paper recycling!

What happens to the hangers once they’ve been used?

By far the majority get landfilled or incinerated. That’s billions of plastic hangers per year. The only schemes that exist to capture plastic hangers need to be set up specially, are not widely available and are inefficient. So paper offers the possibility to plug into all existing and widely available paper recycling schemes — just pop it into any local paper collection point.

Why are there no numbers available on hangers?

Maybe it’s convenient (and cheaper) for the fashion industry not to highlight their dirty little secret! When numbers are available (for instance one of the good guys, M&S, used to publish how many plastic hangers they captured with their collection schemes) it highlights how inefficient these schemes are and why it’s not a viable and sustainable solution to plastic waste. The obvious answer is to switch away from plastic to the most recycled raw material in the world: paper. Collection schemes are readily available for paper all over the world.