An incredible 100 million hangers have been recycled in just six months, thanks to a groundbreaking partnership between two of the UK's most trusted household names, Marks & Spencer (M&S) and UNICEF.

M&S customers have generously left 100 million hangers behind when shopping, so they can be used again in store or recycled.

Recycling hangers helps the environment and also saves money, enabling M&S to raise £370,000 for UNICEF, the world's leading children's organisation, since the partnership was launched in July 2011.

And customers are telling M&S that the partnership is motivating them to get involved, knowing their choice is ‘green' and will also help a child's life through UNICEF.

Kate Bostock, Executive Director of Clothing and Home at M&S said: “We're delighted this scheme is working so well. It's simple, but hugely effective. For every customer that doesn't take a hanger, the environment benefits and one of the world's leading charities benefits. It's now up to us to say a big thank you to our customers and work on ways to make it even more engaging so we can raise more money and make a huge difference.”

David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK added: “UNICEF UK is overwhelmed by the positive response from M&S customers who have really taken the UNICEF partnership to their hearts. M&S customers tend to be green minded, but clearly the added incentive of being able to transform a child's life, while you shop, is hugely motivating. This is a very strong start to a partnership that we are very proud of. Keep recycling your hangers because we aim to transform the lives of thousands of children – thank you!'

M&S donates 50p for every £1 saved from hanger recycling to UNICEF, to fund a critical new project in two locations within the Mymensingh and Dhaka regions of Bangladesh. This project will provide all the basics that extremely vulnerable children need for a better future, such as clean water, education and healthcare.

M&S / UNICEF project in Bangladesh

The unique programme will improve the lives of over 50,000 people in Bangladesh by addressing every aspect of a child's basic needs within their communities.

The M&S Plan A funding will cover 16 interventions including healthcare (breast feeding programmes and treatment for malnutrition), education (funding nursery and primary schooling) and the provision of essential services such as sanitation and clean water.

An estimated five million people live in slum locations in Dhaka alone. After evaluating the success of this intervention, UNICEF will roll it out across the country and into new countries, such as India.

M&S Plan A hanger recycling scheme

The hanger recycling scheme enables M&S to re-use and recycle over 150 million unwanted hangers a year (2010/11 figures).

Since the partnership with UNICEF was launched on 21st July 2011, M&S has collected 650,000 boxes of hangers, containing 100 million hangers in total and raised £370,000 for UNICEF.

For customers that don't take a hanger, M&S customer assistants will place it into a UNICEF branded box behind the tills. According to UNICEF estimates:

  • The money M&S will donate from one box could provide a child with clean water for a fortnight;
  • Two boxes could provide access to clean, safe water for a month;
  • 10 boxes could provide health and hygiene education for a child;
  • 15 boxes could provide education for new mothers about feeding their babies;
  • 35 boxes could provide a place for a child at a day care centre for a year;
  • 50 boxes could provide support for a child in secondary education for a year.

Once they leave stores, unwanted hangers are taken to a factory in North Wales where they are hand sorted and then:

  • All intact hangers are shipped back to M&S garment manufacturers to be reused;
  • Damaged hangers are reground and turned back into hangers;
  • Nothing is wasted – the metal hooks are melted down and reused;
  • Even the cardboard boxes used to house the hangers are reused at least four times then recycled.

At every stage of the process the hangers are ‘back freighted' – transported from stores and back to North Wales and then to manufacturers in M&S containers that would have previously been travelling back to their destination empty. This means that the handling of unwanted hangers isn't using unnecessary fuel or resulting in additional carbon emissions.

UNICEF is the world's leading children's organisation working in more than 190 countries. It delivers health care, nutrition, education and protection to children in urgent need and works with governments to ensure they protect and promote the rights of every child.

Plan A is Marks & Spencer's environmental and ethical programme which aims to make M&S the world's most sustainable major retailer by 2015. Launched in 2007 and extended in March 2010, it takes a holistic approach to sustainability focusing on involving customers, engaging all areas of the business and tackling issues such as climate change, waste, raw materials, health and being a fair partner.

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