New research from UK-based garment hanger recycler Braiform suggests clothes hangers can have just as detrimental an impact on the environment as plastic bags, straws and bottles.

Garment hangers are often overlooked in the debate about plastic waste within the retail sector. Yet with potentially tens of billions of clothes hangers ending up in landfills annually, their impact on the environment is significant, the company asserts.

The research, which has been verified by the Carbon Trust, found that re-using a hanger nine times reduces carbon emissions by a massive 79% when compared to the single use model. The environmental benefits of this saving could be significant if all retailers took part in a hanger re-use programme.

Braiform says it helps leading high street fashion retailers and global brands to re-use over 1 billion hangers every year – a process that also leads to savings of more than 35,000 metric tonnes of plastic materials from going to waste and entering landfill, as well as reducing costs for the retailers. As the war on single use plastics intensifies, its hangers are re-used on average nine times across the world.

The CO2 savings of re-using 1 billion hangers per year represents:

  • The same amount of CO2 generated from manufacturing 10.6bn plastic straws.
  • The same amount of CO2 it takes to fly around the world 19 times.
  • The same as removing more than 9000 black cabs from the road every year.
  • The same amount of CO2 generated from manufacturing over 4bn plastic bags.

"We hope that this research helps bring plastic hangers into the wider public debate about the impact on our environment of single use plastics," says Dr Jim Collingham, head of re-use operations at Braiform. "By adopting a more circular economy model, retailers can become more sustainable which is better for both the environment and their customers.

"As the environmental costs associated with single-use plastics and waste gain wider public awareness, retailers have started to address these key challenges. Actions to improve retail's carbon footprint have rightly taken place, from plastic bags to plastic straws but there is still a long way to go."