CLEVELAND - Gap Inc. has dozens of Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic locations sprinkled throughout northeast Ohio. Within each and every one of these stores are thousands of plastic hangers, used to display a wide variety of clothing.
But Cleveland artist Loren Naji claims these plastic hangers are not recycled or reused -- they're simply thrown into the trash after the clothing they carry is purchased at checkout.
Naji told NewsChannel5 he made the discovery after taking his daughter shopping at the Old Navy store in Mentor earlier this month. He quizzed a sales associate at the store when he noticed the hangers being thrown into a garbage box.
"I said, 'you don't reuse the hangers for the new clothes that come into the store?'" said Naji. "She said, 'no, the new clothes come into the store with hangers on them already.'" Naji's reply: "You don't recycle them? The worker said no, "actually we just throw them out."
Naji traveled to the Old Navy store at Steelyard Commons in Cleveland and said he was given the same information, thousand of plastic hangers used every month are taken out in the trash.
Naji was so upset with what he learned he started posting messages on his Facebook page, asking friends and consumers to call Gap Inc. and demand the hangers be reused or recycled.
The Cleveland artist is even working on a design for an 8-foot spherical sculpture that would include hundreds of Gap Inc. plastic hangers, in an effort to spread awareness and change.
"All the clothing that they sell to our children, these are the same children who are going to inherit our earth and all of these plastic hangers will end up in our landfills," said Naji. "It's our children who are going to suffer."
5 On Your Side contacted Gap Inc. headquarters in San Francisco looking for a statement concerning its policy on the use of plastic hangers. The company responded immediately, telling NewsChannel5 it is looking into the situation.
The company issued the following statement:
" Reducing waste and recycling is important to our business. Gap Inc. is in the process exploring recycling options for plastic hangers."
The Cuyahoga County Solid Waste District told NewsChannel5 it is willing to help Gap Inc. develop a recycling plan for its plastic hangers.
"We welcome Gap to contact us here at the solid waste district," said Executive Director Diane Bickett. "We've put together programs for electronics, used school supplies, and I'm sure we can develop something for plastic hangers."
Bickett reports 12 percent of the counties waste is in the form of plastic and she believes a recycling plan could save Gap Inc. considerable dollars, at the same time reducing the company footprint.
Meanwhile, Naji is moving forward with his plan to make a sculpture out of plastic hangers, telling NewsChannel5 the Old Navy store at Steelyards Commons gave him more than 200 free of charge in three huge garbage bags.
"Art can produce change and that's what I'm all about," said Naji. "I want people to know the truth and I hope Gap will respond."