They’re cheap and easy in a pinch, but disposable razors are just that… disposable. After the fourth use and a leg full of nicks, that $2 power purchase seems more like a $2 waste as you toss that pink plastic single-blade in the trash.
So, should you spring for the $20 four-blade bliss of a high-end razor to avoid waste? While there are limited programs, disposable razors are technically recyclable, but there is some fine print.
Last April in France, BIC launched a free mail-back program for its disposable razors. The company recycles its branded disposable razors to be used as parts for washing machines, proving that this type of material is not only recyclable, but can actually be valuable. But can we expect a program like this in the U.S.?
“At this time, BIC does not have plans to roll out a disposable shaver mail-back program within the U.S.,” says Jill Klimack, spokesperson for BIC.
“With respect to other recycling options, unfortunately a consistent and universally accessible infrastructure for the collection, separation and recycling of plastics from used consumer products does not yet exist throughout the U.S.”
Klimack goes on to cite potential health and safety concerns about the sharp blade and possible bio-contamination for any mixed-plastic recycling system as reasons the company cannot yet recommend recycling of used shavers.
But if you’ve simply fallen in love with your disposable shaver, there are some slightly more eco-friendly options.
According to Klimack, BIC’s studies conclude that the largest environmental footprint of shavers starts with the actual design.
“The end disposal of the shaver is actually a very tiny fraction of the total environmental effect,” Klimack says. She explains that the most impact comes from the manufacturing of raw materials and the water used while actually shaving.
“As such, BIC has primarily focused our efforts on ‘ecodesign’, a process for designing our shaver products to minimize raw material usage and reduce manufacturing impacts,” she says.
The BIC Ecolutions Shaver is made from bioplastic and retails for $3.99. Also, BIC’s Hybrid Advance is the first triple-blade disposable shaver with replaceable heads on the market. It comes with a $5.99 price tag.
Preserve makes its own brand of disposable razors with a body that is made from recycled polypropylene, and the company will accept its branded disposable razors for recycling via its local drop-off locations (which includes Whole Foods) or by mail. After receiving the used shavers, Preserve recycles the plastic #5 body into new shavers. These disposables sell for $7.25 for a pack of four.
The U.S. EPA estimates that 2 billion disposable razors are tossed each year. So, if you’re looking to really reduce your waste, your best bet may be to drop the extra dough on a longer-lasting razor.
[Editor's Note: This story is republished from its original version, which appeared on Earth911.com in January 2011.]