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Inadvertent Use Of Plastic Hangers Are As Harmful To The Earth As Plastic Straws

London Fashion Week, held last September, had focused on 'sustainability,' which is the hottest topic in the fashion world these days. The official show introduced various brands and projects that showcased sustainable fashion. Among them, the brand 'Arch & Hook' stood out the most.

Eco-friendly hangers made from recycled materials (Arch & Hook Instagram)
Plastic straws and hangers have a lot in common. They are commonly wasted without consciousness or consideration. In the recent years, there are many criticisms about the environmental risks of plastic and disposable hangers.

Arch & Hook is a Dutch hanger brand- a company that makes hangers. One might wonder, 'What exhibition is a hanger company doing at Fashion Week?' Arch & Hook booths exhibited special hangers instead of clothes. Their product is an eco-friendly hanger made with 80% of plastic waste harvested from rivers and 20% of recycled plastic. Their products were made in collaboration with a French designer, Roland Moore.

Arch & Hook hanger 'Blue hanger' made from recycled plastic garbage collected from the river. (Arch & Hook Homepage)

"Plastic hangers are like plastic straws in the fashion world," said designer Roland Moore during an interview with the BBC. "When clothes are transported from the factory to the store, disposable hangers made of polystyrene are most commonly used," he said. That is why he built a so-called 'Blue Hanger' using recycled materials. It is a durable hanger that can be reused. Roland Murray urged fellow designers to turn all their hangers into recyclable Blue Hangers.

In fact, the cheap plastic hangers used in the process of distribution of clothes are mostly made of lightweight plastics such as polystyrene. They are used only during the transfer process and when the clothes reach the stores, they are replaced by a wooden hanger or a sturdier hanger. Lightweight plastic hangers, which are used only temporarily during transport, are so cheap that they are more economical to throw away than recycle. According to a report released by Arch & Hook, about 85 percent of these lightweight plastic hangers are buried in the ground.

Abandoned plastic hangers are difficult to recycle and are mostly landfilled. (Prospector)

For this abandoned hanger to decompose by itself, a long time of 1000 years are needed. According to the UK's Daily Mail, there are 10 billion plastic hangers produced worldwide every year. The great number is a serious issue, but what's more serious is the fact that most of them are not recycled. Plastic hangers are made of up to seven kinds of lower-grade plastic and are difficult to separate after disposal. They are expensive to recycle and are actually treated as ordinary waste.

Various harmful substances flow out from discarded plastic hangers. They take over 1000 years to break down. (John Cameron on Unsplash)

Discarded hangers, like other plastic waste, emit harmful substances such as bisphenol A. According to Carbon Trust, a UK-based environmental certification and consulting agency, the amount of carbon released by 5 billion discarded plastic hangers every year is equivalent to carbon released by 3,502 round trips between New York and London, or using 90 billion plastic straws.

Some brands are keenly trying to change the fact that their hangers are causing lots of carbon emissions once they are used and thrown away. According to the fashion business media 'BOF,' the fashion brand Zara is working on a project to unify the hangers used for transportation and the hangers used in the store. Burberry is developing a bioplastic hanger that can be composted after it is thrown away. Stella McCartney, a leading brand in sustainability, is developing cardboard hangers. Korean brands are also working towards more sustainable hangers. 'E-Land' declared eco-friendly management and started the 'Zero Hanger' project. This project, which will be in effect in the beginning of this year, bans the use of hangers for products shipped from the production area. By not using a hanger at all, the company is trying to drastically reduce their amount of plastic used.

There is also a problem with hangers used at home. The most common type of hanger in Korea is a laundry hanger made of thin wire. According to the Korean hanger industry, it is estimated that about 250 million laundry hangers are consumed in Korea each year. The first few dozen that we receive from the laundry service are used to hang clothes in the closet, but the growing number of laundry hangers is hard to kill. Sometimes, they are collected and returned to the laundry service, but not all laundry services welcome the hangers. Some franchisees do not accept them.

Wire hangers that accumulate in our homes quickly even without intention are often difficult to deal with. (Andrej Lišakov on Unsplash)

The next best thing to do with the wire hangers is waste sorting. Wire laundry hangers are classified as scrap metal. However, it is not easy to recycle them because they have a plastic coating on the surface. There are some indications that the cost of sorting synthetic resins separately is high, and that significant greenhouse gases are generated during recycling. Not only is it difficult to recycle, but scrap prices are also often avoided by collection companies as scrap prices fall. Laundry hangers are relatively expensive at 70-80 won each. Reusing as much as possible rather than waste sorting them is more effective in saving resources.

If a hanger is put for waste sorting, it is almost impossible to recycle. Reusing them as long as possible is the most realistic and effective solution. (Pixabay)

The proportion of life we use hangers is small, but when they are suddenly taken away from us, it is very uncomfortable to live. They are commonly wasted without knowing or considering the consequences and without suitable recycling measures. They do not decompose well, thus the environmental full-cost accounting is big. This is the common point of plastic straws and hangers.

The only currently available solution is to use as few hangers as possible. When you buy clothes, don't get unnecessary hangers; if you do, use them for as long as possible. Industrial efforts are also needed. When shopping for clothes online, think carefully whether or not you need the hanger that comes with the clothes. Another way industries can act is to collect and reuse the accumulated hangers at homes.

For more information about Arch & Hook, visit their website:


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