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There are two methods you can use when it comes to being “green" with your razor blades; you can try to recycle them or you can reuse them. Recycling can present problems if you aren’t in an urban area or if you use the really cheap disposable blades.
Reusing blades is as simple as buying a razor blade sharpener like the “Razor Saver" which reportedly sharpens disposable blades up to 130 times. The blades, once sharpened, are actually sharper than the factory edge. Considering the U.S. EPA estimates “2 billion disposable razors are tossed each year," saving 130 purchases might be easier and more environmentally friendly than trying to find a recycling center that will take them.
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Recycling Steel Razor Blades
Steel razor blades are much easier to recycle because they don’t contain any plastic or mixed materials. If you live in a city that offers curbside recycling service you should be able to recycle the metal blades if you follow a few precautionary procedures. First, call your local recycling center and se what their policy is on razor blades. Some centers will only take them on special days, some will have a special drop off area for them, still others will have a specific packaging requirement. If your area offers recycling with just a general “if it is packaged safely" requirement then you will probably want to make a razor bank. This is simply a container that you can slip the used blades into after they are dull.
Razor banks can be made of anything but to keep it green it is suggested that an empty broth can be used (any can that contains liquid would work). Peel the label off the can and make a slit in the top large enough to fit the blade through. Empty the contents of the can (use the contents of course, in a meal for example). Clearly label the can “Razor Bank" or “Biohazard" and make sure everyone in the house knows what it is. This razor bank will keep you and any recycling workers from inadvertently slicing themselves during the recycling process.
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Recycling Disposable Blades
Disposable blades are not currently recycled in the United States. They are made of ABS plastic and fitted at the end with the blades. These cheap razors are the ones that end up in landfills by the billions and there doesn’t seem to be any end in sight. When Bic was contacted about the possibility of recycling their razors the reply was, “Recycling is justifiable for products at end of life when they offer significant potential in both weight and volume, or are easy to disassemble (like automobiles glass, paper and many kinds of packaging). Products such as shavers do not meet these criteria: they are at the same time small, lightweight and scattered - which is why no companies collect and recycle them at this time.”
The reason the company does not recycle disposable blades is mostly that there aren’t enough of them in one place for Bic (or anyone else) to bother with – the time and energy are too great for the return which is strange because they use recycled materials in several of their other products including their pens.
Until a company or grass roots organization makes recycling possible, the best option is to purchase a sharpener. If this isn’t an option the next best bet is purchasing a razor that has replaceable heads thus eliminating over half of the waste inherent in the cheap disposables.
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Image Courtesy of WikiMedia Commons/Hafenbar