Spring is here. It‘s almost time to bare our legs. What do women do? We shave, of course. And so I began, but one leg into the process, I stopped suddenly.
“What the freak am I doing? Using this disgusting, disposable, deadly plastic thingy?”
In my haste earlier in the day, I had purchased a pack of disposable razors without thinking. Now, I stood in the shower and stared at the razor. This thing will never decompose. And as I stared at it, I gagged. I couldn’t help but imagine swallowing it. For that is what happens to these things. They are swallowed by the earth. They are swallowed by animals.
Billions and Billions of Disgusting Disposable Razors
How many used, disposable razors are tossed every year? The most cited figure is 2 billion and the source is the Environmental Protection Agency. But here’s the thing, that source is a booklet called The Environmental Consumer’s Handbook which was published in 1990. In 1990, the population of the US was roughly 250 million. Today? Add at least another 70 million. And since these things do not decompose, it would be fair to say that there are currently well over 60 billion in landfills in the US alone.
Why Recycling Disposable Razors is a Pain
What about recycling? Turns out disposable razors are not easy to recycle. Think about it. Who has time to take out the blades from their plastic casing? While there are some programs specifically designed to drop off or mail disposable razors, sticking to it is inconvenient and time consuming.
How we Became a Disposable Society
What’s really disturbing is that the EPA called us out on being a “disposable society” almost 30 years ago. Their 30-year-old warning was that the country was facing a solid waste crisis because there’s too much trash and not enough places to put it all. And their #1 tip? Source reduction.
Simple right? Just stop making the damn things. But there’s a problem, and we are all part of it. Many products are designed to be disposed of, and we’ve all become programmed to accept this. There isn’t reduction at source. And there won’t likely be any time soon. Companies will not stop manufacturing disposable products. It’s how they make money. The only thing that we can do is to stop buying them.
Design for disposability is a tragic practice that has seen many negative impacts on the planet, from the excessive use of natural resources to the horrendous impacts that hyper-disposability has had on the world’s oceans. – Leyla Acaroglu, PhD
Your Wallet Doesn’t Like Them, Either
Over a lifetime, you’ll spend $2,240 on disposable razors and produce 8,960 pieces of plastic. How did we come up with this number? We figured $1 per twin blade razor (more if you go with the fancy kind) X 4 uses per blade X 1 blade per week X 52 weeks in a year X 40 years of shaving. That’s $2,240 and 8,960 pieces of plastic for one person. When you think about the power of compound interest, that money could be working for you in better ways.
Solution: Sexy Hairy Legs?
So, with one shaved leg and one hairy leg, I found myself jumping out of the shower and emptying the bag of disposable razors I’d purchased on the floor. I put them in a pile and took a picture, sent it to a friend and texted, “I’m done with these deadly disposable razors. Let’s start a sexy hairy legs trend!”
“I’m in!” she responded. “Let’s make T-shirts!”
While I would love for hairy legs to be considered sexy, I doubt it would go over well. In our culture, smooth legs are sexy legs and it doesn’t look like that is going to change on a grand scale anytime soon. But I’m not so much interested in exploring how women got here as I am in exploring what we can do about it now. So, what did folks do before the crappy plastic disposable razor hit the market?
Our Future is Our Past
The straight razor was invented sometime in the 1800’s in England. A straight razor, if properly cared for, can last a lifetime.
I know what you’re thinking. “There’s no way I’m gonna use that on my legs.” But it’s actually quite doable. And some believe it gives the best shave ever.
The safety razor, which uses replaceable razor blades, was first invented by King Camp Gillette around 1900. The razor blades are made of steel and can be recycled. There really isn’t any reason why we can’t go back to using safety razors and recycling the blades. This type of razor is actually becoming more and more popular with the zero waste and minimalist movement.
Small Change, Big Impact
The plastic disposable razor was invented by Bic in 1975. It cannot be recycled. It was designed to be disposed of after use. And thus it sits in landfills polluting our planet and endangering animals forever. Are we really so dependent on disposables that we can’t change?
Since it’s Earth Day, let’s look for obvious ways we can change our behavior to stop adding to the destruction of the environment. It’s been almost 30 years since the EPA suggested we stop using disposable razors. Are we ready to listen yet?
Seriously, these things are disgusting. Just imagine billions and billions buried in the earth. If we stop buying them, perhaps they’ll stop making them, and we can push beyond mere reduction at source towards complete elimination at source.
No matter how you decide to tackle the problem, whether by using a more sustainable option from the past, or perhaps from the future, stop buying these things. Even hairy legs are sexier than disgusting disposable razors.