Plastic pollution is getting out of control. Think about these facts for a minute: The amount of plastic produced in a year roughly equals to the entire weight of humanity, as we've introduced 8.3 BILLION Metric Tons (9.1 BILLION US Tons) of plastic since the 1950s when plastic was first introduced, and only 9% got recycled [EarthyDay.org]. Even the 9% recycled figure can't be accurate when China, our biggest recycling partner, and other countries, have turned down our recycling exports. Please consider waste reduction as one of the goals for 2020 New Year's resolution, and make switching to a safety razor one of the top 3.
Is a Plastic-Free World Possible?
We can all agree on one thing—the world is addicted to cheap goods, especially one-time use products that are made from plastic. What's also true is that the plastic technology has enabled advancements in much of our lives and is so integral to almost everything in some way that we simply cannot dismiss its importance. This is why the movement needs a more practical approach that everyone can get behind and support.
What exactly does "plastic-free" mean? Among different communities the definition of plastic-free is either very strict or is just used as a mantra. Realistically, though, can we stop using plastic completely? Is that even possible? In a group discussion, we pondered and struggled with this question. Go to any hospital, you'll find almost everything in plastic. Would you boycott hospitals to force them to switch glass and metal cans? There are no easy alternatives to make hospitals or any establishments for that matter plastic-free.
We need to promote "plastic-reduction" more because the very notion of "plastic-free" before any discussion on the subject can easily be rejected by what normal busy people know it to be an impossible task. When one is challenged with the daily grind of just getting through the day, trying to figure a plastic-free living is not at the top of their agenda. To tackle plastic pollution, we have to involve everyone, and that means having a discussion that ordinary people can follow. Going back to the hospital example, if we suddenly found ourselves in need of emergency care, would we care how much plastic the hospital used to keep us alive and healthy? Probably not, right? We need a balanced approach.
We know customers will naturally pick the options that pose the least resistance to their daily lives and habits. We can't reduce plastic use in environments that are not in our control, but in our bathrooms shaving or grooming is, and switching out one or two wasteful plastic items from the regimen can make a big cumulative difference over a lifetime.
Multi-Blade Plastic Pollution
While multi-bladed disposable razors are still the norm, old-fashioned safety razors are making a major comeback. This is due in large part to the unique benefits of wet shaving. Disposable razors are quick and convenient in some ways, but wet shaving has a few advantages that make it worth the effort.
For one thing, safety razors are less wasteful than disposable razors. Instead of buying expensive replacement razors and blade cartridges, safety razor owners can use the same razor for years or even decades. Except for replacing one or two blades a few times a year, buying a safety razor is a one-time investment. The use of safety razors also cuts down on garbage, for this reason, making them the more environmentally conscious choice. According to the EPA, around two billion disposable razors are discarded each year in the US alone.
Go Beyond Saftey Razor
Every year, an estimated 260 million tonnes of plastic are produced, worldwide. Of that, 10 percent ends up in the ocean. Let that number sink in. That means that every year, 26 million tonnes of new plastic end up as litter in the Great Pacific or North Atlantic Garbage Patch, adding to the already massive plastic islands made of slowly degrading plastics that are hazardous to both humans and marine life alike. When you do the math, it's truly disheartening to think about how much plastic there is floating around, slowly strangling animals or causing bowel-obstructions which ultimately lead to painful deaths. And that number is only set to rise as global plastics demand grows year after year.
How did it come to this? Well, the majority of the plastics believe it or not, are the result of litter from single-use plastics such as straws, bottles, and plastic bags. Others, such as nylon weave and buoys, are purposely discarded by the unscrupulous fisherman. None of this is natural-nature doesn't produce these sorts of complex polymers and as such, are slow to bio-(or photo-)degrade. That means that this ecological disaster is entirely the fault of human activity, just one more in a long and growing list of ecological disasters.
Reduce Plastic Use When and Where Possible
Try to eliminate as much of your plastic consumption as possible. The more plastic you cut from your life, the less plastic ends up as waste. Single-use plastics such as disposable cutlery, straws, and plastic bags, in particular, are the most environmentally harmful as they don't get recycled and usually end up in the landfill. And, even if you do recycle, remember: plastic production generates pollution and plastic reclamation does the same. To produce plastics, crude oil needs to be refined, needs to be treated, and all of that requires heat and energy. To reclaim plastic, the plastic needs to be rendered before it is made usable again, which also requires heat and energy. And that's not to mention that most plastics aren't even recycled - of the 8.3 billion metric tonnes estimated to have been produced, 6.3 billion is estimated to be plastic waste and of that, only a measly 9 percent is recycled with the rest of it ending up in landfills or litter. Truly, there's no better substitute than using less plastic if you want to reduce your plastic footprint.
Reusing Is Better Than Recycling
Going zero-plastic isn't really viable considering the permeance of plastics in society, stretching everywhere from building materials to clothing. If you can't stop using plastic, then the next best thing to do is to reuse it and get as much value as you can before you discard or recycle it. For example, bringing along a durable plastic bottle instead of buying bottled water at convenience stores would be a great way to reduce your environmental footprint. Utilizing reusable shopping bags is another way you can help save plastic from ending up in the landfill. Single-use plastics that are discarded after use are very wasteful, but re-usable plastics not so much. Plastic is, after all, an undeniably useful substance. There's nothing wrong with using plastic if you do it responsibly.
Recycle If the Plastic Item Can't Be Reused
If you can't reduce it or you've reused it to the end of its usefulness, then it's time to recycle it. Any plastics that can be recycled should be recycled to reduce the environmental burden of producing more plastic. While recycling plastic isn't 100 percent environmentally friendly, it is friendlier than not recycling at all. Thus, when it's a choice between throwing it away or recycling, always choose to recycle.
How Is MSC Helping to Reduce Plastic Use?
We believe all parties involved end-to-end of the product lifecycle, from the manufacturers to the customers, need to change their current ways to reduce plastic from the environment. At MSC, we are doing a better job of helping customers reuse and reduce plastic. We tried being fully plastic free and it just was not possible, however, our goal has been to be mindful of plastic usage and finding ways to reduce and reuse. Below is a list of environmentally conscious decisions we have employed in producing our shaving soaps.
- Reduce: Our soap is natural and has a high concentration of vegetable glycerin, which means it easily melts into your own bowl or mug. The packaging is very minimal and made from recycled materials as well that can be composted or recycled, except for one part explained below in the Recycle section.
Reuse: All the shaving soaps are Refill Pucks first so if you buy one in a plastic container for easier travel, just buy the refill next time the container finishes. You'll save money and introduce less pollution.
See our melting instructions.
Recycle: Customers complained their soap was melting in shipping boxes, which made sense since a high glycerin soap that is meant to melt and pour easily will melt in hot weather conditions. We tried wax paper to various environmentally friendly materials and nothing was effective in keeping not just the shape but also the glycerin from escaping—beading that occurs to high-quality natural glycerin soaps. Unlike shaving soaps, body soaps formulas are different, usually have a much lower concentration of glycerin. That is why body soaps can be shipped without wrappers.
We finally solved the melting issue by wrapping the shaving soap with a thin saran wrap, which is also from recycled materials and can be recycled again. From Earth911: Plastic wrap and film packaging are generally #2 and #4 plastic, both of which are recyclable. Most plastic bags are recycled into composite lumber, but can actually become a wide variety of products. Drop-off locations and curbside pick-up programs for these plastics are available all over the country.
No one said being a good global citizen would be easy and anyone who does is a liar. In fact, a lifestyle change of this magnitude will probably be immensely difficult while convincing others to do the same would be even more so. It's hard to change hearts and minds, even when it's the right thing to do. Why? It's because it's inconvenient - that's how things got so bad in the first place. That's why the EU parliament and the substituent governments have proposed legislating an effective ban on all single-use plastics (with some exemptions such as medical products for obvious reasons). We have to do a better job in the US.