Noble Plastics (NP) is one of the world’s first eco-social initiatives to champion effective management of plastic waste and bring circularity to supply chains, while promoting the well-being of people and the planet.
Piloted in collaboration with Marks & Spencer (M&S) in 2018, the core business of NP is to collect used hangers from corporations in the fashion industry, repurpose (reuse/recycle) and sell them back to fashion companies at a premium. Hanger repurposing is done mainly by women and members of marginalized communities, whom we hire, train and empower to work. Any surplus from NP is re-invested into our primary healthcare programs for the poor. Finally, we measure the carbon footprint that NP operations generate, and plant an equivalent number of trees to ensure carbon neutrality.
NP is a critical sustainability initiative because hangers are made of very low grade plastics that take hundreds of years to break down. 8-10 billion plastic hangers are produced and sold every year, out of which only 15% are recycled. Most hangers are discarded after single use and end up accumulating in landfills and oceans. NP community teams sort used hangers into reusable and non-reusable piles. Reusable hangers are cleaned and sold back to fashion companies. Non-reusable hangers (which would have exited the supply chain as plastic waste) are ground into powder and remanufactured into new hangers for companies. In this way, 100% of plastic waste collected is channelled back into the value chain. This, along with planting trees to offset NPs’ carbon footprint, preserves circularity. By creating shared value between companies and communities, Noble Plastics promotes an inclusive shift towards circular economy.
Within just 10 months of operations, NP has achieved 100% hanger repurposing (60% reused, 40% recycled), reused 60 tonnes of plastic, saved M&S $11,500, generated 4600 days of work and $34,000 in wages for women and marginalized groups, reinvested $8000 surplus in improving health outcomes, planted 400 trees to achieve carbon neutrality, and demonstrated a win-win-win solution for people, planet and profits within a circular economy framework. Since hangers are fairly homogeneous products (most apparel industry players source their hangers from the same suppliers), they lend themselves to easy scaling across brands and retailers. At current rates, NP is expected to achieve 1000 tons’ reduction in the use of plastics in 5 years, propelling companies towards zero waste targets.