With all the plastic film and toxic chemicals, dry cleaning clothes can be a wasteful process. You’ll likely end up with a surplus of wire hangers that meet the trash after a day’s use, too.
Generally, hangers are tricky to recycle because of their awkward shape; they can easily entangle machinery at recycling facilities, causing delays for workers who have to remove each obstruction by hand. For this reason, you likely won’t be able to throw them in your recycling bin as part of your curbside program—but this doesn’t mean you have to trash them just yet. Depending on the exact type, there are a few alternative solutions to your spare hanger problem.
You might be able to recycle wire hangers
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First, let’s take a brief dive into each type of common hanger, including plastic, wood, and wire ones. As Recycle Bank writes, most plastic hangers are made of #6 plastic (polystyrene, also found in CD cases or cups) or #7 plastic (polycarbonate, also found in water cooler jugs). Because of their type of plastic, shape, and size, it’s very unlikely you can recycle these at all. It’s also unlikely you can recycle hangers made of wood, as they’re often treated with a varnish or another type of finish, making them difficult to repurpose.
Wire hangers generally can’t be recycled either, and can pose an especially serious challenge to recycling machinery. That said, there are exceptions. In New York City, you can drop off wire hangers in your recycling bin as part of the city’s curbside program. You might also be able to bring wire hangers in bulk to a metal scrap recycling plant near you, as they’re made of valuable steel.
Reuse old hangers or bring them to a dry cleaner
For any hanger type, consider reusing them first; you can easily repurpose them into a towel or dish rack, if you’re interested in a simple DIY project.
If you want to get rid of them once and for all, however, you should do an online search for the rules of your local curbside recycling program and whether they accept wire, wood or metal hangers just to be sure. (In the case of wire hangers, use Earth 911’s locator to find local scrap metal recyclers that might accept them; search using the term “metal clothes hangers” and your zip code.)
If that search turns up dry, do the next best thing and ask your local dry cleaner if they accept used hangers (bring a garment bag to avoid plastic film waste if you’re also dropping off clothes). You should also do an online search for organizations like shelters that might accept hangers for donation. According to Keep It Out of the Landfill, Target also accepts plastic and metal hangers for reuse, but only their own store hangers.
And going forward, reconsider buying those flimsy plastic hangers altogether. Wood hangers are generally more durable and will likely last longer than your typical plastic option. And refuse hangers if ever you’re offered them in stores—you’ll save yourself the headache of having to recycle them at all.