The plastic handle on a disposable razor can’t easily be recycled, and billions of razors end up in landfills each year. But a new design from Kai, a Japanese razor manufacturer, swaps plastic for paper instead. The blade is made fully from metal without plastic parts.
The handle design, inspired in part by paper milk cartons, uses a thin coating to make the paper waterproof. It ships flat, meaning that the package can also be smaller. The paper is designed to fold together into a shape that makes it sturdy and as easy to hold as a typical razor. (The thin strip of tape over the blade is cleverly designed to be reused to wrap around the folded handle to make it secure.)
Other manufacturers have experimented with different materials; Preserve, for example, makes a razor handle from recycled ocean plastic. That handle can also be reused with a series of new blades, and it’s possible that more manufacturers will choose to move in the direction of reusability rather than trying to improve disposable razors. On Loop, a platform that sells mainstream products in reusable packaging, Gillette sells a reusable razor handle with razor heads that can be sent back for recycling. A startup called Albatross sells a zero-waste stainless steel razor and also takes back blades for recycling. Leaf, another startup, also makes an all-metal razor and recycles blades.
Kai’s paper razors, on the other hand, aren’t designed to last. A reusable option is likely more sustainable—but recyclable paper is better than the ubiquitous plastic version.