I’ve been doing a bit of researching today, to find out about environmentally-friendly alternatives to the most common plastic hangers. I found a few ideas, although unfortunately it seems like it’s very very early stages, and a lot still needs to be done to reduce the enormous amount of plastic used to distribute the tons of clothes that hit our high-streets every year.
Even at Estethica back in February, I noticed a lack of attention towards the hangers collections were displayed on. Not so though for STUDY NY and LU FLUX, with their beautiful customised cardboard hangers:
Not many eco-friendly alternatives are available to the public, unfortunately. However, most people don’t actually buy hangers, and just prefer to keep the ones that come free back from the dry cleaner’s (a big no-no as far as I’m concerned!), or with a new high-street purchase. And indeed, it is at industry level that hangers are churned out at most speed – so it’s good to see steps are being taken to provide retailers and dry cleaners with more sustainable alternatives.
It is recent news that retail giants such as Benetton and Macy’s NY are gradually introducing new hangers to their stores. Macy’s, where up to 300 million hangers are used every year, will switch from their usual clear plastic ones, to matt black ones made of recycled materials. Italian high-street leader Benetton plans to save 600 tons of plastic a year by switching to innovative, lightweight ‘liquid wood’ ones. These new hangers, made from wooden pellets moulded into shape, are 100% biodegradable and recyclable, and will gradually be implemented in Benetton’s worldwide store network.
In the UK, Hanger 4 Life have developed a new and very advantageous hanger system. They bank on durability: their hangers are still made of plastic, but of a high-quality ABS that is supposed to last for a lifetime. Which is particularly important for retailers: the reduced risk of breakage saves the retailers money, and allows them not to have to increase the demand for newly produced hangers.
And whatever Hangers 4 Life produce, they offset their carbon emissions in full. And that’s after they have a up to 40% reduced carbon footprint to begin with, thanks to intelligent design: reduced tooling in manufacturing, minimal inventory space required thanks to a special shape, and less cardboard needed for boxes of smaller size used in distribution.
They have also made their intelligent design available to the public, and their hanger systems are available to buy on Amazon.
When it comes to dry cleaners, I think anything should be made to get rid of the terrible wire hangers! Luckily somebody thought of an eco-friendly option that is a no brainer for dry cleaners to switch to: it actually comes free to them, as costs are covered by the marketing messages on the hanger’s body.
EcoHangers, based in the US, are the leaders in this field – and produce for a variety of markets, and not just for the dry cleaning industry. They provide completely customised eco-friendly clothes hangers for distribution in national retail chains, licensed merchandise stores, hospitality and tourism locations, government agencies, campuses and college bookstores.
In their own words: “The Becohanger is a fully recyclable and biodegradable hanger made from durable recycled paper and card. Similar in size to a standard wire coat hanger, the Becohanger is designed to replace its less eco friendly cousins, that fill our wardrobes and landfill sites every year. Although deliberately not indestructible, the Becohanger is strong, durable and resilient.
Fully printed with four colour inks, front and back, the Becohanger not only works as a useful eco friendly product, but it also offers an attractive advertising platform. It is this added value that allows us to give the hangers away for free.”
Plus, Beco have developed a range which is available for the consumer to buy. Made from a plant fibre material (it would be great to know more about its composition though!), these hangers are designed to replace standard plastic ones. Using natural fibres from a sustainable source, they claim the hanger body is biodegradable within 2-3 years of being composted. Available to buy at Caraselle.
Beco’s offer is also completed by a cardboard hanger. Although I have to admit I am not the greatest fan of cardboard hangers for the everyday wardrobe (because of their durability, but also because sometimes their shape is not the most ideal for some garments), I think their fun children’s version is a great product. Children’s clothes are not supposed to be worn for very long – so why introduce a lot of plastic in a kid’s wardrobe, that will most probably be disposed of shortly. Granted, the hangers can be donated, just as most of the kid’s clothes will. However, I like the idea that the hangers can just go in the compost – one fewer thing to be produced with plastic. Also available in store at John Lewis.
Even though cardboard hangers might not be the best option for consistent everyday use in a regular wardrobe, I think they are a great alternative for many other occasions, such as display in showrooms and trade fairs. As shown in the first picture of this article, during Estethica in London two labels showed their collections on eco-friendly hangers customised for their own brand – an excellent choice, and I was surprised not to see more designers paying attention to such important details.
Australian brands can obtain the same service from Green Hanger. Whereas here in the UK, Norman Hangers produce similar cardboard hangers of excellent quality, so much so that they now supply Lu Flux (see picture at beginning of this article, taken at Estethica), Pants to Poverty and the Ethical Fashion Forum.