The Cost of Being Eco: Disposable razors vs plastic-free safety razor

Eco-expert Lauren Bravo explores whether switching to a disposable razor can have a benefit for your purse as well as the planet

While lockdown might have put hair removal firmly on the backburner, sunny days and social engagements have lots of us reaching for a razor again. But whether it’s face, legs or anywhere else we care to bare, shaving has unseen snags we might not be aware of.

Disposable razors

While not quite ‘single’ use plastic, the average disposable razor only stays sharp for 6-9 shaves – meaning if you use one to shave daily, you’ll be throwing away some 40-50 razors a year. The clue’s in the name. Because they’re usually made up of several different materials – plastic, metal, rubber – disposable razors can be hard to recycle, as well as posing a health and safety risk to waste handlers. And although specialist recycling schemes do exist (like this one between Gillette and TerraCycle), they take time and effort that most people just aren’t willing to put in.

As a result the vast majority of disposable razors will end up in landfill, where they can take several centuries to decompose, or incinerated, which releases huge quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. At the current pace, CO2 emissions from burning waste are set to double by the year 2030.

So what are the alternatives?

Staying au naturel is the obvious one, if that’s your style – and more power to you. But leaning into hippie stereotypes isn’t the only way to minimise shaving waste.

Typically made from durable materials like brass, stainless steel or bamboo, safety razors are in it for the long-haul. Only the blades need to be replaced (and these can be recycled), while the handle can last for 10 years or more. Though they’re often billed as a more traditional choice, a new wave of companies is reinventing the safety razor to be more eco-friendly, more user-friendly and even more cost-effective. Chances are you’ve encountered the Instagram ads, but do they live up to the hype?

And the costs?

Disposable razors tend towards the ‘cheap as chips’ bracket, with offerings on the Boots website currently averaging 89p per razor – but some as low as 15p. Prices for plastic-free reusable razors, meanwhile, can vary wildly depending on material, eco-credentials and shelf appeal. The fanciest stainless steel models could set you back as much as £45, but there are more affordable versions on the market, such as Estrid, Sunny and Harry’s, for under a tenner. Watch out for the Pink Tax, which makes women’s products mysteriously more expensive than those marketed at men. If you’re not fussed about pastel colour palettes, you might spend less.

Making them last longer

There are things we can do to extend the life of our razors too, like rinsing off soapy residue and drying the blades after each use to avoid rusting. Some people even swear by sharpening their razor on a pair of old jeans. Smooth.

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