Whether styling a beard or clearing an entire mane, shaving is an essential routine for every man. But what happens to all the old razor blades from your previous shave? Let’s talk about the ever-problematic topic: razor blade disposal.
It is not new. We all know that disposable razors (because of their plastic components) and razor blades do not fare well with the environment. That is why many companies are partnering with each other to promote proper disposal and recycling of razors.
The question is: are razor blades really recyclable?
In this article:
- What are Razors Made Of?
- Can You Recycle Old Razor Blades?
- How to Give Your Old Razors a New Life
- Recycling Disposable Cartridge Razors
- How Bad are Razors for the Environment?
What are Razors Made Of?
Given that these tools have a long history, there are different kinds of razors. For now, we will put our focus on safety and disposable cartridge razors, as they are the ones that many people often use.
To fully understand how our favorite shaving tools break down and proper razor blade disposal, it is only fitting to know how razors are made and what they are made of.
For safety and cartridge razor blades, manufacturers use martensitic stainless chromium stainless steel. These blades are composed of carbon, chromium, manganese, and silicon, making them easy to harden and temper while withstanding various heating and aging treatments.
Since users constantly expose razor blades to corrosive factors like water, their edges usually have coatings, which can be Teflon, platinum, chromium, and ceramic. All of these help in making the blade harder, preventing it from rusting and becoming dull quickly.
Meanwhile, the handles and cartridges of these razors are often from plastic, wood, and steel, depending on their manufacturer. The design and shape of the razor’s plastic components are from molds of different plastic resins, like polystyrene, polypropylene, and phenylene oxide.
You can watch how razors are made below:
The process of creating razors begins by heating steel ribbons, then passing them through a cooling chamber. The extreme shift in temperature strengthens the blades. After that, an automated machine grinds and hones the blades for sharpening.
Quality control checks the thinness and sharpness of the blade before applying and bonding the coating to the steel using an oven. Meanwhile, plastic pellets are turned into razor parts, machinery assembles the razor parts, and then the blades are put inside.
Can You Recycle Old Razor Blades?
Now that we know what makes up our razors, let us go back to the primary questions on razor blade disposal: what do you do with old razors? Can you recycle old razor blades?
Yes, you can recycle old razors and their blades but with the help of a recycling facility. For disposable cartridge razors, big brands like Gillette and BIC have partnered with private recycling companies to make recycling old razors accessible.
There are likely several recycling facilities in your community that can help you dispose of your razors properly. Just make sure to separate the blades from the cartridge because you cannot recycle plastics imbued with metal.
For the blades, you can also try asking local pharmacies, clinics, and hospitals, if you can dispose of your old razor blades. Whatever your choice may be, do not just throw your old razors and their blades in the trash. Separate the blades and put them in a blade bank before throwing them out or giving them to a nearby scrap metal facility.
How to Give Your Old Razors a New Life
Here is the thing: recycling old razor blades on your own is challenging, but it is possible. If you do not want to throw your shaving tools into the bin, why not give them a second life instead?
Try these ideas for recycling razors:
Have you collected a tin full of DE blades? Do not let it go to waste. You can use them as an added protection to your property. DE blades are great fixtures for creating barb wires. And if you have been shaving for years, without a doubt, you will have enough blades to cover your whole backyard.
Shavette as cutter
If there are empty shavettes in your home, you can use your old DE blades after snapping them in half to fill shavettes for cutting envelopes, packages, and tapes, as several users suggest on this Reddit thread.
Stovetop and oven scrapers
Have you got gunk on your stovetops or inside your ovens? You can insert used razor blades inside ceramic stove top cleaners and window scrapers. Both of these tools are compatible with DE blades. Old blades may not be sharp enough for your facial mane, but they are great for scraping off debris from your kitchen appliances.
There is also an option to melt the blades. But we do not recommend this because the amount of effort and resources needed to do so can be more environmentally detrimental. Plus, since DE blades are thin, they can burn before melting. So, leave the melting of the blades to the professionals.
Recycling Disposable Cartridge Razors
Safety razors are better than disposable cartridges because you only need to dispose of the old blades. Meanwhile, disposable cartridges end up in the trash whole, with their blades intact—because they are meant to be used and disposed of.
It is also essential to take note that disposable razors do not have any of the usual recycling markings or Resin Identification Codes (RIC) on their bodies. The lack of RIC makes it hard for collecting facilities to sort them out for recycling.
Hence, the best way to dispose of razor blades is to give them to their brand's partner facilities. Here are some of them:
Terracycle - Gillette's partner organization for razor recycling needs, although they do not exclusively accept razors from Gillette. Whatever razor brand you have, you can sign up to their program to get your free mailing label and send your used razors in.
Leaf Shave - A sustainable shaving brand that also promotes recycling old razor blades. If you cannot find any local scrap metal facility near you, you can send your blade bank to them, and they will give it a new life.
- Albatross Designs - A zero-waste company specializing in creating recyclable razor blades. They accept all kinds of razor blades, even from other brands.
So far, Terracycle is your only option for disposal of the whole plastic cartridge razors because the other two only do razor blade disposal. The problem is the drop-off areas are limited, and the shipping can be costly. However, if you can successfully remove the metal from the plastic cartridge, you can ask your local recycling facility if they can accept the plastic parts of your razors.
How Bad are Razors for the Environment?
Each year, Americans discard around 2 million razor blades in landfills.
How bad is the problem? Just imagine millions of American men shaving daily and how many razors they use in a month or just a week. You can also drastically see the effects by treading the Californian coast, where there is a significant garbage patch.
As mentioned in Eco Watch, “158.10 million people in the U.S. used disposable razors,” and it will skyrocket by 2024 with over 160 million people using disposable razors.
Since millions of Americans use disposable razors and safety razor blades every year, the shaving community is among the top contributors to American landfills. The scary part is that landfills produce one of the most potent greenhouse gases in our atmosphere: methane.
During the 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference or Conference of the Parties (COP26), the main focus was to make countries more productive in fulfilling their roles in the COP21 Paris Agreement.
The agreement was to slow down or lessen the increase of global temperatures due to greenhouse gasses. Sadly, the countries’ efforts were unproductive, hence the surprisingly radical amount of greenhouse gasses currently in our atmosphere.
Extreme climate change
According to World Meteorological Organization Secretary-General Professor Petteri Taalas during COP26, “At the current rate of increase in greenhouse gas concentrations, we will see a temperature increase by the end of this century far in excess of the Paris Agreement targets of 1.5 to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels.”
What is the concern all about? Greenhouse gases are making our world hotter, more than what scientists have thought of. Because of that, as Prof. Taalas says, “Extreme events are the new norm,” like severe flooding, reduced flow of mighty river basins, overheating of the oceans, and more heatwaves.
Although your shaving routine and gears may seem like a grain of rice in a football field when it comes to climate change factors, it can make a difference. Ditch your disposable razors and opt for a more long-lasting alternative like straight razors.
Naked Armor has a prime collection of straight razors using a broad range of steel—from the most rigid Damascus steel to Japanese steel used in Samurai swords. And with proper razor care, these razors will even outlive you, giving no space for worries about proper razor blades disposal. The best part is it is more economical as you do not have to buy replacements each time your blades get dull.
If you buy a straight razor, we recommend getting it in a shaving kit to get all the essentials you need in just one investment. Then, partner it with reliable and organic grooming products, like the ones from our Thor Grooming collection.
Now that you know about proper razor blade disposal, you can put it into practice. Then, when you get rid of all your used razors, do not forget to switch and invest in a life-long straight razor.
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