We're Filling the Empire State Building (4 Times) With 8 Billion Hangers Each Year

Plastic hangers on a laundry dryer outside.

Aiman Khair Bin Samsol Hairi / EyeEm / Getty Images

Yep, thats right. 8 Billion. Each. Year. According to Green Progress, over 8-10 billion plastic and wire hangers are sold each year, with only 15% ever being recycled. While clothes hangers, both metal and plastic are pretty small, 8 billion each year begins to add up. Fortunately, there are alternatives to hangers and plenty of ways to reuse them and keep them out of landfills.

Why aren't they easily recycled? Well most plastic hangers are made from Polystyrene [6] and Polycarbonate [7], but they can also come from 5 other types of plastic. When these hangers all get rolling on a conveyer belt, its hard to separate them out because they tend to smash into pieces - gumming up the works, and then its really hard to identify them by their plastic. Wire hangers just turn into a giant rats nest, so most municipalities ban them. What a mess!Many overseas manufacturers are also starting to ship clothing on hangers, thus ending any need for reusing hangers as new ones are always coming in. Unfortunately the hangers also cause problems in the landfills as the polystyrene ones leach benzene and the polycarbonate ones leach bisphenol A, both of which we have reported on for their toxic effects on human and other living populations. Darn it.

So what exactly does 8 billion coathangers look like?

A shot of the Empire State Building from the ground.

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"Picture the Empire State Building packed floor to ceiling and from basement to observation deck - all 102 floors - with plastic hangers. Now multiply that by 4.6 to get the number of skyscrapers needed to hold 8 billion hangers. Or put another way 8 billion plastic hangers would fill 46,296 semi trucks full of polystyrene and polycarbonate hangers stretching 464 miles. That's bumper to bumper across the entire state of Oklahoma! Every year!"

So what can you do instead of trash hangers?

White plastic clothing hangers piled in a box.

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One option is to drop them off at your local salvation army or other resale store. They can use them to hang merchandise or sell them to other folks who need them. You can also drop off your metal hangers at your nearby dry cleaners. There are plenty of arts and crafts projects you can make with them, but also the point is just to be aware of how many you are collecting over time. If you're not using them then pass them on, and if you need new ones see if you can't find them at a resale shop or purchase some that have a are more eco-friendly.

Instead of purchasing more plastic and metal coat hangers, you can use coat hangers made from corn or wheat. These are biodegradable, but don't work in an anaerobic landfill, so you have to compost them when they break or you don't need them anymore.