[Note from Mantic59: After my article about recycling razor blades, Charles Smith offers his own perspective on the issue.]
The good news is in: It is indeed possible to recycle your used razor blades, with minimal cost or hassle to you. Stay with me and I’ll show you how.
First some background. I work as an engineer, I’m blessed to work in a manufacturing facility which is still running during our Corona-Slowdown, and we regularly machine steel castings up to several tons in net weight. And when I’ve been running the CNC machines myself in another shop, I’ve had the privilege of slicing up my hands real good a few times on the sharp metal shavings and chips that come off the metal workpieces, after they get embedded in shipping boxes or other items in the work cell. Trust my words: it’s not fun.
Here’s an example of various parts machined in a CNC machine:
Let’s follow the journey of scrap metal chips – aka swarf – a bit further before we return to our main idea.
This picture shows a chip hopper on the pack side of a production machining center. Note the automatic feed conveyor outlet in the upper left.
When this hopper is filled with scrap metal chips from machine operations, it is dumped into a dump truck and sent off to a metal recycling center. The swarf is usually run through a briquetting process like you see in this video:
From there this scrap metal is dumped into an electric arc furnace at a steel mill and melted into molten metal. You may see this process in action in this view:
Large automotive factories will have millions of dollars of scrap metal leaving their metal stamping plants heading back to a foundry for re-melting to make… more steel for more metal parts in the future. Thus, the junk metal from car plants gets re-made repeatedly until it goes out the door as parts on your new car or truck.
So why can’t your used razor blades be parts of this journey? To answer: they certainly can be.
[Editor’s Note: Amazon And Phoenix Artisan Accoutrements links are Sharpologist affiliate.]
What are your blades made out of? The clear majority of Double Edge razor blades are made out of grade 420, 440 or occasionally 410 stainless steel because these grades of stainless steel can be heat-treated [hardened] to keep a sharp edge while inhibiting growth of rust and harmful organisms from the environment and our faces.
So the short answer is: contact your local machine shop. Ask them if you can drop off your razor blades into their steel chip hopper for recycling. After a few calls, one will agree and your blade recycling problems are solved. Or inquire with friends, relatives, or neighbors who work in a similar manufacturing capacity. Something will open up for you.
How to get it there? I suggest this Feather brand plastic blade bank. The top comes off and can be replaced after emptying it, and I’ve done this a few times already. Or any metal blade bank will also work, as long as you don’t mind it making a one-way trip. You can even “roll your own”: an old Altoids tin with a slot cut in it would work, or consider one man’s solution of emptying a steel chicken broth can with a knife blade on the top. Don’t forget to also toss in any used box cutter or carpet knife blades you might have around the house as well.
[Editor’s note: PAA also sells a whimsical blade bank.]
In any case, I strongly suggest against simply dropping them into the trash directly because it poses a hazard to sanitation workers, pets, wildlife, and may be against local / municipal laws. I also suggest against the old-style method of dumping used blades through a slot in your bathroom wall / medicine cabinet because it may cause mold and will be hazardous to handymen doing plumbing or electrical work at a later date.
So my story ends after inquiring with the resident CNC machinist – and watching him wince at my mention of double-edge shaving – he agreed to allow my disposal of used DE blades into the swarf hopper behind the machine. Whenever my blade bank fills up, I take it with me into work and empty it out for recycling. From there, the blades are collected and later melted down safely into new metal products, including everything from car parts to coat hangers, cast engine blocks, boat anchors and more.
I do this and I suggest the same course for you. Good luck, stay safe out there, imbibe responsibly during our collective downtime, and happy shaving.