caution: not recyclable

I’ve been using shaving cream for the better part of my adult life. One might even debate that I was using it before I was an adult, and one might even win such a debate. That is not why my empty, old, and rusty can of shaving cream appears here. It’s to do with the sustainability of this packaging.
We tend to recycle as much as we can at home. In fact, it bothers me when a product is made out of metal or plastic, and is made in such a way that it doesn’t seem to be recyclable. This says to me that no consideration has been made to sustainable disposal by the name on the label – in this case, Gillette. The above fits into that category, and recently it got me thinking – there has to be a better way to package shaving cream. On this thing, the lid (not shown) is recyclable, but that appears to be all.
I am going to stop buying cans like this. I want the one I have right now to be the last of its sort inside my buying habits. Sorry this isn’t a great photo; that is not really the point of this post. The can might seem insignificant, but each night people go to sleep and 1 thing happens for sure – hair grows, which we want to then shave. This is significant enough a fact for Warren Buffett to invest in razor blades; it is also significant enough, by the same logic, for us to scrutinize the environmental packaging practices. In a world of uncertainty, it is still certain that a lot of people have shaved, are shaving as you read this, and will be shaving many times in the future. It is a fact.
Here’s a question that the men or the women can answer: what is the packaging like for the shaving cream you are using? Is there any alternative that you can suggest that does a good job of being shaving cream – one which comes in completely recyclable packaging? Is any company doing better work than their competitors in this regard?

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  1. My friend Eric and I were discussing this just the other day after he made the switch to safety razors, and a brush and proper shaving soap.
    The safety razors are too expensive and demand too much time/practice to perfect and get to a reasonable amount of time for a shave, but we both agreed that shaving cream was questionable in its content (compressed goo that becomes foam? That in itself isn’t necessarily bad, but it’s a flag to investigate), and the fact that the packaging is totally waste that cannot be recycled.
    I’m with you – it’s just a matter of going shopping and finding something to switch to.

  2. My current shaving cream is by Natures Gate. You can get it at Thrifty Foods.
    It’s peppermint – cucumber. It comes in a better container – something closer to a lotion tube. It’s not tested on animals. It’s made of certified organic ingredients.
    It’s the worst. It doesn’t lather.
    I think the most earth-smart strat is to shave in a hot shower. You can get nearly as good a shave with a little practice.

  3. I’m going to be of absolutely no help here. =)
    Perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough, but I’ve not seen shaving goop come in anything other than a pressurized can (I prefer wussy-faced ‘thenthitive’ gel for the 46 follicles scattered across my mug).
    But I have thought about it many a time, usually as I resign myself to tossing the empties in the garbage, so would be welcome to any options.

  4. I use an electric. Certainly this piece of technology is not itself particularly recyclable – as much as a cd player or walkman, anyway. But I have used the same razor for four years – only changing the blade every year or two (current one is two years plus – time for a new one!) and it is still going strong. It cleans itself using an alcohol cartridge that I replace every couple of months, is plastic and I doubt is recyclable. That is the only regularly disposed-of component that I think I have to deal with (not to downplay it, but…).
    Now, the question becomes, what would the cradle-to-cradle carbon footprint be of an electric razor be versus a manual razor requiring more disposable or replacement parts (including shaving cream) over a given lifespan? Somehow I think electric might be better…. Yes, you can measure the electricity/battery charging use of the razor versus nothing of the sort for a manual one, but then consider the running water, or extra shower time a manual razor might take… This can be boiled down ad infinitum.
    Might be worth going for the hermit beard.

  5. Not that I shave my face, but shave gel for women is the same deal (although the hair concentration is way lower).
    There used to be a line of Burt’s Bees shave cream in bar that I can’t seem to find online anymore. It was a lathering soap that you just needed a fancy brush and water for. Apparently it worked like a charm! Anyhow, their products are super natural, but have succumbed to consumer desire for snazzy packaging.
    Another one is Williams, which makes a similar soap that’s a bar in a cardboard box. Not sure where you can buy it though.
    But sustainable packaging is totally a valid concern that applies to a lot of different products, including shave gel for men and women. I’d love to see these companies held responsible for the pollution that their products are causing…

  6. I gave up shaving cream some years back, instead I use Clearasil Daily Foaming Face Wash something or other, mid-shower in the morning after the beard has softened up a little. It’s not a shaving product, per se, nor is there anything on its recyclable plastic container that suggests it, but works really well for me.
    As for electrics, I’ve tried a few, Remington and Phillips come to mind (both in the hundreds in cost) but while I have very fine head hair my facial hair is unusually thick and strong and electrics tend to pluck me rather than cut, basically a date with pain in the moment and ingrowns ongoing.
    I too some years back tried the safety razor, lots of nostalgia and romance, but mostly the nostalgia of when men kept a styptic pencil as part of the morning gear, or worst case scenario patches of toilet paper; in modern times with the Mach (whatever number we’re up to now, translate to Venus for girls), a cut while shaving is a twice-a-decade event, not a thrice-monthy bane.
    As for the can not being recyclable, well it’s not especially (at least with our local program), but notice that rust in your example? Iron is an important part of soil, perhaps we should start a metal “composting” facility.
    On an off note, I came across this page
    Along with aerosol shave creams, let’s also think deeply about Refrigerators with Built-in TVs. What the hell? Who has these? If you don’t have one, Craig, they’re not worth having. Seriously though, it’s a list to look over when thinking about our local landfill footprint.

  7. ha! Nope, no TV-in-fridge. Not even the kind that keep an inventory of your groceries and auto-generate a shopping list whenever you ask… Nor one with the faux-real cabinet finish so instead of looking like a fridge, it looks like a giant-ass cabinet (much better; yeah right).
    I recall hearing from Ed Burtynsky once that China was single-handedly responsible for the world’s demand for scrap metal – where all recycled metal and electronics were fetching enough of a price that it was worth recycling. And that was only a couple of years ago. But apparently that market has bottomed out and they are no longer seeking scrap. So I don’t know where that stuff is going anymore. Regardless, consider the impact a freighter loaded with tin has on the environment when it has to chug all the way to China, and surely not in a straight line…
    Nothing’s perfect – the classic example is Tetra-Paks (juice boxes). Up until 8 years ago they hadn’t invented a way to recycle them and until a year ago the only place on the planet that could recycle Tetra-Paks was Brazil (thanks Discovery Channel!). The material is so complicated (aluminum glued/fuzed with paper with plastic) that people couldn’t figure out how to take it apart and rescue anything for future use.
    The best solution amongst all of these in my opinion is to limit packaging at the point of purchase. Try to avoid as much non-essential material usage as possible.

  8. I don’t shave my face either but I do remove the hair from my legs. I say it like this because normally I wax my legs – shaving is the devil.
    But lately I’ve been shaving to save money and I just use soap. (shudder) It sucks.
    If you have your legs waxed in a proper spa, there isn’t much wastage – simply the strips they use to get the wax and the nasty hairs out. A LOT less waste than those nasty aerosol cans I’m sure.

  9. I second the alba suggestion, or any sort of shaving cream that comes in a lotion tube. I believe there are a few options on the market now. I use alba mango shave cream on my legs and I bought an unscented one for my ex bf and he seemed to like it.

  10. i don’t buy shaving cream. i may have bought a handful of these cans in my lifetime, but there came a point when i realized an electric razor would suffice to replace the clumsy lather + blade combination.
    eventually i stopped using a close-shave razor, and i now only use a beard-trimmer. they are cheaper, the technology is less prone to failure as are the microscopic hair-splitting accuracy razors advertised so widely (triple mach 3 bullshit?).
    i appreciate good marketing, but marketing a product that is unsustainable and less beneficial to health than a simpler product, is deceptive and disgusts me.
    my wife shaves with whatever soap is around. she does not buy pressurised cans and never has. we both agree that aerosol or pressurised cans are horrible wastes of materials.

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