four disposable razors on a countertop

The Environmental Impact of Disposable Razors and Shaving Cream

Week 17

Many of us have a shaving routine that includes a disposable razor. In fact, a recent report from Statista estimates that 158.1 million Americans used disposable razors in 2020. Of course, the easiest way to eliminate shaving waste would be to stop shaving. While I commend the all-natural movement, I'm not headed there any time soon. Instead, it's time to take a look at how to make my shaves a little more sustainable.

What's the problem with disposable razors?

As you've probably noticed, disposable razors are made of plastic. Plastics are problematic because they are made from non-renewable resources, have limited recyclability, and take hundreds if not thousands of years to break down. Razors, like all plastics, are made from crude oil, a non-renewable resource, which is problematic for two reasons: manufacturing generates significant pollution and the product is not biodegradable. As put it, "they are difficult to produce and nearly impossible to get rid of once produced". Instead of biodegrading, plastic break down into tiny micro-plastics that litter our soil, our waterways, and even our air.

The first completely disposable razor was introduced in 1975 by French company Société BIC. Since then, these throw-away plastics have taken over the market, leaving the once popular safety razor in a distant second place slot. In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that America produces 2 billion throwaway razors and blades every year. That number is likely much higher now, especially since most disposable razors should be replaced somewhere between 1 and 4 times every month.

Are disposable razors recyclable?

Disposable razors are not accepted in curbside recycling bins. However, razors, blade cartridges, and plastic packaging can be recycled through Terracycle. Pro tip: before you toss or recycle your old razor, you can use it to depill your fuzzy sweaters.

What's the problem with shaving cream?

The biggest problems with traditional saving cream are the propellants required for it to work as an aerosol. As SF Gate points out:

"Shaving creams contain aerosol propellants to help you use the product. Manufacturers may use a variety of ingredients, including hydrocarbon propellants like butane or propane. These substances present the greatest concern about the environmental impact from shaving cream. Hydrocarbons are essentially another source of greenhouse gases. Depending upon the gas, their global warming potential can far exceed that of carbon dioxide. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, emissions of hydrocarbons and other fluorinated gases have increased by nearly 60 percent from 1990 and 2009."

Are shaving cream cannisters recyclable?

Most shaving cream containers are made from a mixture of steel and aluminum which are both infinitely recyclable. However, you should remove the plastic cap pieces and completely empty the cannister so that it doesn't contaminate the recycling process.

How can I shave more sustainably?

Switching to a safety razor and plastic-free shaving bar can significantly reduce the amount of waste you leave behind. Read my next post for a complete Low Waste Shaving Routine. If you're looking to save a little money, you can make your own shaving cream with a few simple ingredients.

5 Ways to Have a Low Waste Shave →