The reason is a growing retail program called Garments on Hangers or GOH. With GOH, retailers outsource the plastic hanger to the clothing manufacturer overseas. With these programs the garment is shipped to the United States on its very own plastic hanger. The reason: it’s cheaper to buy there and cheaper to put on there than it is here.
If you don’t take home the hanger, and 85-95% of consumers do not, then into a box it goes under the counter and out into the dumpster. Thousands of them, every day.
The abstract question is yes. But the reality is no. These plastic hangers are so cheap that it’s less expensive to make new ones than it is to recycle them or ship them back. And with 7 different types of plastic and multiple materials (metal hooks and clips, vinyl and rubber noslip pads, etc) most recovery programs have banned hangers in their recycling programs. So into the dumpster they go.
No one knows. Plastic has never been seen to decompose. And the estimates are as high as 1000 years or more. That means that the one-use plastic hanger hanging the garment you just bought, won’t break down until the year 3000.
20 billion hangers would fill the Empire State Building from basement to the 102th floor observation deck 11 TIMES! Every year and growing.