February 6, 2007 4:00 AM PST

Earth-friendly hangers coming to a dry cleaner near you

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Earth-friendly hangers coming to a dry cleaner near you HangerNetwork is probably one of the few companies that can trace its roots to a carpet stain.

The idea for the company--which makes a dry cleaner hanger made entirely from recycled paper--came after founder and Chief Operating Officer J.D. Schulman's mother asked him to throw away a bunch of old wire hangers. He put them in the garbage, the hangers poked a hole in the bag, and gravy dripped on her white carpet when Schulman took the garbage out, says HangerNetwork CEO Bob Kantor.

The result was the EcoHanger, a sturdy replacement for wire hangers that can be folded and tossed into the ordinary household recycling bin. Because they biodegrade relatively quickly, the hanger conceivably could displace significant amounts of difficult-to-dispose-of garbage every year.

"3.5 billion wire hangers go into U.S. landfills every year, and they sit in there for over a hundred years," Kantor said.

Photos of Ecohanger

Perhaps just as important, the company says it can bring these hangers to market in an economical way that makes it attractive for dry cleaners to switch. HangerNetwork doesn't sell its hangers. It gives them free to dry cleaners, who ordinarily have to pay about 8 cents per wire hanger.

So who foots the bill? National advertisers pay HangerNetwork to put ads on the hangers, which then stare consumers in the face when they get dressed in the morning.

"We have Van Heusen shirts, L'Oreal, Dunkin' Donuts, Mitchum antiperspirant," Kantor said. "On average, (the hanger) stays in your closet six to eight weeks."

The company is already pulling in "multimillions" in ad revenue, he said. Ad campaigns can be targeted at men or women and will be available nationwide or aimed at specific markets. The ad campaigns start at 250,000 hangers.

The company this week announced it has landed $8 million in venture dollars from Kodiak Venture Partners and Sigma Partners, and Kantor said the company will use the money on introducing itself to thousands of independent dry cleaners nationwide. So far, the company has mostly sold its hangers in the New York metropolitan area, but now it is expanding nationwide. In about two weeks, the hangers will start popping up in dry cleaners in San Francisco and a few other major metropolitan markets, Kantor said.

Cleaners Supply, the largest distributor of dry cleaning products in the U.S., offers the free hangers from the front page of its Web site. The supply outfit serves approximately 35,000 dry cleaners.

The company reflects how many clean-tech companies are marketing themselves, touting their green attributes but giving equal weight to the idea that they can compete with products made of standard materials. Cereplast of Santa Monica, Calif., for instance, has come up with a way to make forks, knives and other disposable products out of cornstarch, rather than petroleum byproducts. The forks can be safely put into a landfill, and the cornstarch blend is comparable to traditional materials.

Technically speaking, the EcoHanger is made from 34-point paperboard (a relatively thick paper) that is folded onto itself. The hanger is then glued and laminated for extra strength. In the end, the hanger is strong enough to hold clothes, but remains flexible. The company has sought patents on the device.

The benefits the EcoHanger has over wire hangers pave the way for it to become an ad vehicle, asserted Kantor. After all, it gets rid of a device--wire hangers--that many people don't like or don't know how to get rid of. Even many dry cleaners now refuse to take back wire hangers. Thus, any potential resistance to a new form of advertising coming into the home gets outweighed by environmental benefits and easier disposal, he said. To use advertising industry buzzwords, the ads are "invited" into the home.

Advertisers also benefit because the ads can last longer than other forms of collateral advertisements. Those insulating cardboard coffee rings now ubiquitous in coffee shops are kept only until people are done with their coffee. The EcoHanger can be (and often is) reused by the customer, Kantor said. Thus, a given customer will see the siren song for Dunkin' Donuts a few times a month. (Interestingly, the doughnut chain was also one of the first advertisers to sign up with Massive, which inserts ads into video games. Massive subsequently got bought by Microsoft.) The company says its cost per impression comes to around 4.5 cents.

The ads, Kantor added, are also tough to miss.

Has the company thought about adopting the famous wire hanger line from the movie Mommie Dearest as a motto or jingle? Yes, Kantor admitted, but he said there are issues with royalties.

See more CNET content tagged:
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Join the conversation!
Add your comment
What good are they?
If I can't open my car door with them when I lock myself out ?
Posted by whobob (34 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Hangers or hanged?
While I am excited to see the environmental benefits of this new form of hanger I am troubled that we (the end users of wire hangers) could not figure out a simpler, cheaper, and more effective solution to this problem. That being, return hangers to the store for reuse. This would 1) reduce waste by not having the hangers end up in the landfill, 2) reduce energy by not requiring that a new cardboard hanger be made for each shirt, skirt, or coat that is cleaned, 3) reduce waste by now having the cardboard hangers be hauled to the landfill after each cleaning, and 4) reduce the visual polution of more advertising being put under our noses at one more location in our private homes, the closet.
Posted by concernedcitizen14 (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
good news!
ClotheslineSA.com uses the EcoHangers, and our customers
recycle them several times before they give out, about the same
as wire hangers. It's an easier return, because they don't get
bent up, and the paint doesn't chip off. They actually last longer.
My customers say the ads on easily degradable post consumer
waste cardboard outweigh the huge landfill problems caused by
wire hangers.
Derba Mills
Clothesline Cleaners
SA's Only Natural Alternative to drycleaning
btw, have you googled drycleaning solvent?
Posted by Wet Cleaner in SA (1 comment )
Link Flag
dumb & dumber
Another dumb idea that encourages our throw-away culture. The paper hangers will likely cause more environmental harm than good. Most dry cleaners already take wire hangers back for reuse so unless the user is lazy, there is already a recycling system in place. Wire hangers are also a recyclable metal that can be placed in the metals bin. Throwing the paper hangers into the trash, as many will do, will take up diminishing landfill space, not to mention the effects of the inks and the papermaking process itself. I doubt anyone wants more ads invading their lives and lcosets, what next, ads for McDonald's on toilet paper?
Posted by mprleader (4 comments )
Reply Link Flag
I agree
Idiots will flush them. Insist on wires. I have plastic hangers and I
don't go to cleaners.
Posted by paulsecic (298 comments )
Link Flag
I'm a freelance writer working on a piece on eco-hangers, would you be willing to answer a few questions on your experiences with this product?

Thank you,
Posted by alhight (1 comment )
Link Flag
Mommie Dearest would be proud.
'nuff said.
Posted by Mr. Bentor (5 comments )
Reply Link Flag

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