Like everything else, whether or not you can recycle hangers depends on several factors – most importantly, who provides your trash and curbside recycling service, where you live, and what the hangers are made out of.
Can Wire Hangers Be Recycled?
Wire (metal) clothes hangers seem like they ought to be easy to recycle, but it’s not that simple. Unfortunately, you can’t just toss those unneeded metal hangers in your single-stream recycling bin. Since recyclers depend on machines to sort their materials, those wire hangers (especially since they have a large hook on them) seem perfectly designed to jam up the machinery. Therefore, most curbside recycling services do not want wire hangers. In fact, many recycling services only accept aluminum and steel cans – no other forms of metal.
There are exceptions, of course, such as New York City, where it’s perfectly acceptable to toss wire hangers in your single-stream curbside recycling bin.
So, since you generally can’t recycle wire hangers, what can you do them, besides throwing them out?
Best Alternatives to Recycling Wire Hangers
There are still some great choices for extending the usefulness of your old wire hangers.
- Turn in to the local dry cleaners where you probably got them in the first place.
Dry cleaners need to buy huge numbers of wire hangers – to the tune of over 3 billion hangers a year. So, most dry cleaners would gladly accept free ones from their customers, and save a little on their costs. If your dry cleaner doesn’t accept used wire hangers, check around for one that does – most would welcome the free hangers, and appreciate your potential business.
- Donate them to thrift stores or consignment shops.
Most clothing donations that thrift stores receive are folded, or otherwise loaded into a box. But, to sell them, thrift stores need to hang them for display. They’ll likely readily accept free hangers along with your other donations.
(Some, like the Salvation Army, don’t accept wire hangers – they only want plastic hangers – so give them a call first. Others, like Goodwill, won’t accept any hangers. We’re not sure where they get the hangers they need.)
- Take them to a scrap metal recycling center or scrap metal dealer.
Many recycling centers accept scrap metal of all sorts. Metal hangers can certainly be dropped there, along with any other non-recyclable metal things. Note that, although some “hard to recycle” facilities actually charge to drop off recyclables, typically metals of all kinds can be dropped off for free – including wire hangers.
Scrap metal dealers will also accept wire hangers, but unless you have lots of other scrap metals to dispose of, it’s probably not worth your time to find a dealer and make a special trip. Your best bet is your local recycling center drop-off facility.
- Get creative.
Coat hangers make great DIY tools, such as custom hangers for projects that need to hang to dry. (We use a twisted wire hanger on the end of a long pole to install and remove our outdoor holiday lights every year. It’s been in service for over 10 years so far! )
Schools and daycare centers can use those wire hangers for art projects.
You can even make your own landscape staples out of old wire hangers – they’re the right gauge, and easy enough to bend into shape.
Creative Ideas For Wire Hangers
The Spruce has some very creative ideas for putting those old wire hangers to crafty uses. Of course, there’s the old standby of making a wreath for your front door. They also mention some really clever ideas like making a single-use strainer for messy projects that would ruin your kitchen strainer, or creating a ribbon or thread spool holder, or even making a giant bubble wand.
So, even if you can’t recycle wire hangers, there are plenty of ways to make them useful, with little effort.
Can Plastic Hangers Be Recycled?
Although plastic is often recyclable, plastic hangers (or worse, hangers made from a combination of plastic and metal) are a bit more of a challenge to recycle. Generally, your curbside recycling service, or even a recycling center, won’t let you recycle plastic hangers.
Although in most places, you can’t toss plastic clothes hangers in the recycling bin, there are a few exceptions, like New York City, so it’s worth calling to check.
Since plastic hangers don’t typically have a recycle code on them, you usually can’t tell if they’re made from recyclable plastic. Hint: they’re usually not.
Hanger manufacturers typically make plastic clothes hangers from low grade plastics like polystyrene or polycarbonate (recycling numbers of 6 and 7). Since they’re low quality plastic, they generally get bundled in with styrofoam, as far as recyclers are concerned, which is not generally recyclable. So, recycling services generally won’t let you recycle plastic hangers.
But, there are other options for putting those old plastic hangers to good use, rather than letting them go to waste.
Best Options For Recycling Plastic Hangers
- Your actual best bet is to not take the plastic hanger from the store in the first place. Most department stores will ask whether you want the hanger, and really, you likely don’t need it. So, decline it – it saves you getting rid of it, and it saves the store from needing to buy more.
- If you got your hangers from Target, in particular, return it there – they accept their own hangers (although they will not accept hangers from other stores).
- As with wire hangers, your best bet to get rid of unwanted plastic hangers is to turn them in to your local dry cleaner, if they’ll accept them. If your favorite dry cleaner doesn’t accept hangers, check around to see if maybe another one does.
- Donate them to thrift stores or consignment shops.
Most clothing donations to thrift stores are folded, or otherwise loaded into a box. To sell them, thrift stores need to hang them for display. They’ll often readily accept free hangers along with your other donations. (Some, like the Salvation Army, only want plastic hangers, so give them a call first. Others, like Goodwill, won’t accept any hangers. We’re not sure where they get the hangers they need.)
- Get creative.
Coat hangers are still useful for art projects, so check with your local schools or daycare centers. Plastic clothes hangers are not as versatile as wire ones for DIY tools, but they’re a bit safer for kids than wire hangers.
Can Wood Coat Hangers Be Recycled?
Unfortunately, wooden hangers cannot be recycled, since wood is generally not recyclable. Although wood is generally compostable, wood hangers are a problem. Almost always, wood clothes hangers are coated with varnish, to avoid splintering. Since painted or varnished wood isn’t compostable, wooden hangers unfortunately cannot be composted.
So, your only options to get rid of wood hangers are to donate them to a thrift store or consignment store, or maybe to a school or daycare for art projects.