I was recently wandering around (okay, more like drooling on everything) in one of my favorite shops – Reformation. Not only do I want all of their beautiful dresses, overalls, and jumpsuits, but I found myself drawn to their hangers (YES, THEIR HANGERS). I know it sounds strange, but let me illustrate. They are minimally sleek and slender and yet still heavy duty. After a little investigation I was led right to Ditto Hangers and the rarely discussed issue that is plaguing our landfills – the whopping 19.6 Empire State Buildings worth of plastic + wood hangers getting dumped in them yearly! Fortunately for the people of earth, creatives and conservationists like Gary Barker and Larry Chernicoff took notice of this problem a few years back and have actively been working on a solution ever since. I had the chance to chat with Gary about ways we can change an aspect of the fashion industry that is rarely even considered – the hangers we display our garments on.
How long has DITTO Hangers been around and what made you decide to start this business? Was there a specific "a-ha" moment where you felt something just had to change, that there had to be another way?
I’ve been in industrial design for many years and was concerned about the massive consumption in the U.S. and all the products and materials going into landfills. Back in 2006, my partner, Larry Chernicoff, and I decided to start designing products more intelligently, so they could be easily recyclable. Larry came up with the idea of replacing the wire hanger in dry cleaners with something more sustainable. But when we researched hangers we realized that plastic hangers were the real problem. So we designed the Ditto Hanger made out of a special, highly compressed paper fiberboard that can be recycled anywhere. We spent 2.5 years in research and development getting it to the product you see today. We tested the Ditto Hanger in stores all over the world before offering them to consumers.
I think we can all agree that reducing our dependency on plastics is a step in the right direction, so what are DITTO hangers made of? And what makes them so great (for the environment and my closet?!)
Ditto Hangers are made from 100% recycled paper (minimum 70% PCW) and are certified to contain no chlorine, formaldehyde or heavy metals. And we use soy-based inks and starch-based adhesives. So it really is a clean product. They’re even used in hospitals or by people with sensitivities to chemicals. Ditto Hangers don’t off-gas into your clothing like plastic hangers do. Just think about it: most closets are sealed up with no ventilation. So all those plastic hangers are off-gassing into your clothing – dangerous chemicals like benzene (active ingredient in cigarette smoke) and bisphenol-a, a hormone disrupter.
How many hangers end up in landfills every year?
350 million wire hangers every year. 46 billion plastic retail hangers. Enough to fill 19.6 Empire State Buildings! That’s 19.4 million per day in the U.S. alone. It’s mind boggling.
Okay, so you’ve inspired me! I want to replace all of my current hangers with DITTO Hangers. Now what do I do with all of my old wood, plastic and wire hangers now that I know that throwing them out isn’t really an option?!
A few curbside recycling programs do take hangers. Most do not, so it’s important to check with them. The other option is to donate them to your local nonprofit thrift store. Or you can take them down to your local recycling center.
Is there anything that we as consumers can do to demand our retailers to change their ways?
YES! The reason so many plastic hangers are going into landfills is a growing industry trend called Garments on Hangers (GOH). Instead of using hangers over and over again in stores, many companies have their overseas clothing vendors put plastic hangers on clothing and shipping them here already on a hanger. Once the garment is sold, the hanger goes into a box under the counter and into the dumpster. The reason is it’s cheaper to throw away than to recycle. In one major flagship store in downtown San Francisco we discovered up to 28,000 plastic hangers are being thrown away every day!
Tell your favorite retailer you don’t like plastic hangers!!! Find out more information about the problem with plastic hangers at www.HANGD.net [Humans Against Non Green Displays]. And like them on Facebook, too!
I’d just like to say that little things make a very big difference. We’ve been told by huge clothing companies that they will keep using plastic hangers until their consumers tell them they don’t like them. We can change plastic hangers just like we did plastic bags, but it has to start with consumers advocating for change. Once you really look at that innocent looking plastic hanger in the store you’ll find that it really is a nasty piece of work. We can do it here at Ditto. But we need your help.
Nothing changes until we demand for it to be changed. We have to play our part in this. Ask your local retailers to change their ways, petition the larger chainstores. Maybe start with your own closet and give DITTO HANGERS a whirl. Head over to www.dittohangers.com now and scoop up some hangers of your own!
All photos courtesy of Ditto Hangers.