In this article, we'll look at the most commonly found types of razor blades in bathrooms in the UK and discuss the different ways of disposing of them. We'll also look at the practicality and environmental impact of disposing each.
Your razor blade needs to be sharp to keep your stubble shaved close and irritation at bay. When talking about different kinds of razors, this usually means regularly replacing the blades.
- Razor Cartridges (e.g. Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Harry's, etc.)
- Disposable Razors
- Safety Razor Blades
- Shavette Blades
- Straight Razors
- Electric Razors
Razor Cartridges (e.g. Gillette, Wilkinson Sword, Harry's, etc.)
Cartridge razors use disposable razor heads with metal blades moulded into a plastic casing. This design is described as mixed materials by recycling groups because the metal, plastic and other materials are difficult to separate for processing on their own. As a result, government recycling programs in the UK don't accept cartridge razor blades. Your easiest option may be to throw them away, which may cause environmental problems later.
Some programs in the UK let shavers pay to recycle their used razor cartridges using an envelope that you return to them. While they increase the rate of razor blade recycling, these programs are not perfect. Some describe these programs as downcycling, where the final product is made from an inferior form of the original material and ends up being thrown away or incinerated later on anyway. Due to the nature of the material, plastic can't be recycled forever and is often mixed with new plastics, making it an unsustainable material.
This kind of razor differs from a cartridge razor in that the whole thing, handle and all, is designed to be thrown away when it is time to change the blade.
Like cartridge razors, they are mixed materials making it difficult to find places that will recycle them in the UK. If you need to dispose of one of these razors, place the protective cap back on the razor if it came with one, and put it in your domestic rubbish.
Alternatively, find a nearby free recycling program that will accept your disposable razors. Be aware that rather than recycled, most plastics are less sustainably, downcycled or used again with new plastics. The next section covers a 100% recyclable and sustainable type of razor blade.
Safety Razor Blades
Safety razors, also known as double-edge safety razors, or DE razors, are a good choice for the conscious consumer. The blades are stainless steel, which can be fully recycled forever without adding new material. Recycled steel avoids wasting energy and avoids all the negative impacts on the environment from when it was mined and processed. It's also widely recycled. Almost all steel is still in use today and most new steel goods are from recycled steel.
Collecting razor blades safely
You'll need somewhere to keep your used safety razor blades, or you'll be heading out to recycle after every shave. There are a few different ways to choose from.
Option 1: Use the original packaging
Many blades come in small plastic containers. In the back can often be found somewhere to store them, once used. When filled up, you have something that can be thrown away safely but is now mixed materials, which you can't recycle easily.
Storing blades in their original paper and cardboard packaging is a better environmental option. When storing used blades like this will still need to separate them later when recycling them.
Option 2: Make a blade bank
Collecting used blades can be done in almost any container. Some use empty glass jars, empty metal tins or others. The problem with most of these is that you can't recycle them with the blades inside unless they are also stainless steel. You'll need to either empty the container at the recycling point or safely dispose of it in your waste bin.
Option 3: Buy a blade bank
The best option, we think, is a purpose-made, stainless steel blade bank, that, when full, is recyclable along with the blades inside. It's also sealed, stopping any spills or accidents. Thousands of recycling locations across the UK accept stainless steel razor blades, so check for your nearest and get recycling.
These are kinds of straight razors which use either double-edged blades snapped in half, or purpose-built blades, such as shavette razors favoured by barbers.
These are practically all made from stainless steel so can be recycled in the same way as the blades of the more popular safety razors. It's probably best to store them in a container before disposing of them, so check the previous section about safety razor blades for some tips on storing and recycling your shavette blades.
Straight Razor and Electric Razor Blades
Some kinds of razors, such as the classic straight razor, with a single heavy blade attached to a handle, can be sharpened, as well as the blades on hair clippers and electric razors, which need sharpening now and then to keep them cutting efficiently. This is done professionally but if you invest in the right equipment, it can be done at home.
If you need to dispose of the blades in one of these razors it's usually safe to say that they're made of stainless steel. Carefully separate the blades from any non-metal parts and dispose of them at your local recycling point in the bins used for metal recycling. The rest of the razor should be disposed of at a Waste and Electrical Electronic Equipment recycling point so the batteries and electrical components can be processed.