Every time you pick up your razor, do you think about where it has come from, or what its cost to the planet is? The male grooming market is worth billions of pounds every year, and razors play a huge part in what is a massive global industry. But in the US a staggering two billion disposable razors go to landfill sites every year, and in the UK we throw away millions more too. And because they’re made from plastics that do not break down, that means your disposable razor is going to be a part of the landscape for a very long time to come.
But it isn’t just a matter of disposal. The manufacture of razors is extremely labour and cost intensive, as is shipping them around the world. While aesthetics are important if you are to attract the buying public to your particular brand of razor, the consumer is now starting to consider more than just the obvious factors such as cost, looks and effectiveness. There’s more disposition amongst consumers to look at the bigger picture and to ask some deeper, more fundamental questions like – what impact is my morning shave having on the planet?
One of the key factors in the cost of manufacturing men’s razors is the design. Razor styles vary from the relatively simple disposable blade to much more complex mechanisms with vibrating heads (which invariably means incorporating a small servomotor and accompanying electronics into the design) and a host of lubricant strips and other bells and whistles. If you break these down into their component parts you start to see just how complex the manufacture of what appears to be a relatively simple product actually is. So has the industry over-egged the pudding by producing ever-more complex razors, when what men really want is something that simply gives them a great shave?
Some of the biggest players in the male grooming market have invested heavily in the development of razor systems. Gillette, one of the largest names in the business, employs 500 design engineers just to come up with new ways for men to shave in the morning. With everything from flow-through cartridges, lubricant strips and pivoting heads to soft grip handles, skin guards and working out the optimum angle to position a blade, razor R&D is a big business.
Once the designs have been finalised, they are sent off to low-cost manufacturing plants on the opposite side of the world, where the final product is produced and then shipped around the globe. For example, brand leader Gillette, an American-based company, has its razor handles manufactured in China while the blades are made in Sweden. Wilkinson Sword, once a quintessentially British institution (that started life making motorcycles!) now manufactures its razors in Germany.
All of this means that at any time container-loads of parts to make up a variety of branded and unbranded razors are being sailed and flown around the planet, clocking up some serious mileage. That all requires the use of fossil fuels to transport them, as well as the energy needed to manufacture the various components. For example, the manufacture of razor blades requires the steel used to be heated to temperatures of between 1,967 – 2,048°F (1,075 – 1,120°C), which takes a great deal of energy to achieve.
Plastic injection moulding, the process used to produce the various components such as the cartridges, razor handles and carriers for the lubricating strips, is an energy-rich process that puts a high demand on our planet’s natural resources. The manufacture of razors, therefore, is not a particularly sustainable one and has a considerable impact on the ecology of the planet.
Air, sea and land…
However, the cost of your morning shave doesn’t stop there. The cost of transporting razor handles into the UK runs into millions of pounds every year, as products are shipped in from China by air, sea and land. If you’re a responsible consumer who wants to lessen their impact on the planet, how can you remove yourself from this ecologically unsustainable cycle without resorting back to using a Victorian style cutthroat razor?
The answer is simple – look for a British manufacturer like us, King of Shaves. Rather than going for fancy designs with multiple components, King of Shaves have gone back to basics. We’ve stripped away all the decorative elements and, frankly, unnecessary additions and produced simple yet effective razors that give you a quality shave that won’t cost the earth. King of Shaves handle manufacturing and design is located here in the UK to help support British industry and jobs and keep the air-miles to an absolute minimum. This means we can control the impact our Azor system razor handles have on the environment, producing a product that has the bare minimum number of components but doesn’t compromise on quality or functionality. We would also urge people to think twice about using and binning disposable razors, switching to a system razor is much better for the environment without having a major impact on your budget.
So the next time you pick up your razor in the morning, stop for a moment and think just how much of an impact your daily ritual has on the planet.