120 years ago a small town US salesman soaped his face to begin his daily shave with a cut throat razor whilst pondering whether there might be an easier way to shave. The salesman was King Camp Gillette and he would go on to invent one of the world’s most successful products – the safety razor. Without the need for sharpening, the new ultra thin disposable blades were a revolution and in just 3 years, millions of blades were being sold. The Gillette safety razor even became standard issue army kit through both world wars and it still exists today in almost identical form – so why do so few people use them?
One word answer – Plastic
Within every business there is the need to be innovative and cutting edge (excuse the pun) and Gillette was no exception. In 1971 the twin bladed Trac II was launched and thus began our love affair with the plastic disposable razor.
Since the 70s razors have become a marketing dream – “let’s add another blade, a lubricating strip, another blade, a moving head, another blade, rubber gills, another blade, a flexball, another blade… ” And with the exciting new invention of female legs, women started to shave too – great! Lets make them pink, sparkly, contoured and ridiculously overpriced – and as consumers we have been reeled in; hook, line and sinker.
Right now in the US it is estimated that 2 billion razors and blades are disposed of every year and because they are a complex mix of plastic, metal, rubber and other materials they cannot be recycled. I cannot even fathom how many that is around the world.