Airsoft BBs; otherwise known as airsoft pellets or ammunition are used in wargames where two or more opponents fight each other sometimes in teams. The BBs come in 6mm to 8mm balls that are fired from airsoft guns. When it comes to bio-degradation of the pellets, they are usually divided into two types. Biodegradable and non-biodegradable, though there are other alternatives such as metallic and ceramic. Both the biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs are readily available in stores. As the game started becoming popular, in the 90s a different problem arose regarding their effect on the environment.
Bio-degradation is a biological process that involves the breakdown of particulate matter by microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria over a period of time.
Compounds that can be affect microbial activity are said to be biodegradable while compounds that are unaffected by microorganisms such as fungi and bacteria are called non-biodegradable compounds. Examples of biodegradable compounds include Polylactic acid, polybutylene adipate, kitchen waste, dead organisms, plant products, human and animal wastes, and many more.
Examples of non-biodegradable compounds include: metals, ceramic, plastic products such as grocery bags, bin bags, rubber tires, construction wastes, to name a few.
Are airsoft BBs biodegradable? This is a question that most new or in sometimes even old BBs users are always asking every time they encounter or use airsoft ammunition. Typical airsoft ammunition is usually non-biodegradable and was traditionally used for the game, but due to its hazardous environmental impact, biodegradable material was introduced.
At the moment, some countries Malaysia, Canada, Korea, Thailand and Singapore made the importation of the airsoft guns illegal by banning the use of airsoft BBs together with guns. Here in the United States, States such as Arkansas, California, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington DC, the possession of airsoft guns is illegal under the airsoft guns regulations, put in place. Some of the reasons are due to the pollution of the environment.
When did biodegradable pellets come into use?
The game initially started from Japan back in 1970. Since it was illegal to possess and use firearms, airsoft guns provided an outlet for their wargame fantasies.
It wasn’t long before the Chinese picked it up and not long after that it started spreading across Europe. Companies started building facilities where people could immerse themselves in war-games activity.
It wasn’t long after that, that they realized their fields were littered with the pellets and it required picking them all up after each session. Not only was it labor intensive, but it also polluted their fields, and alternative options were considered. One of them was the use of biodegradable pellets.
When I first encountered the game as a kid. I remember pressuring my parents to get me an airsoft gun because every kid in the neighborhood had one. Suffice it is to say we used to play in my parents’ backyard for months until the game ran out of our system. Of course, the tiny pellets didn’t really bother me back then, and I never thought much of it in hindsight.
Unfortunately, when my parents died, they left the property to me and I decided to move in since it was much bigger than the house currently living in at that time. When I moved in, I decided to start my gardening. My first surprise came when I realize the yard was littered with BBs. I had to start cleaning the soil, and it took me close to a month before I was satisfied, and even then, I could still pick up one or two pellets every now and then. What used to be entertaining for me as a kid turned out to be a nightmare that came back to bite in the future.
Just how fast is their bio-degradation
As consumers started becoming aware of the aftermath of using non-biodegradable especially in their backyards. The need for biodegradable pellets became paramount, and companies began producing them en masse. With biodegradable pellets, the type of brand use matters as not all brands are of the same quality.
Typically, the biodegradable is designed to decompose on their own, and they do so when they come in contact with water, sunlight or sometimes even oxygen especially when used in the open. Some brands, however, may usually take a lot longer. These brands may take months to close to a year if the pellets are deposited in a landfill but would take even more time out in the open.
There was a recent California study that was carried out to test the which of the two between biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs decomposes faster. The study was able to confirm that the biodegradable pellets degraded faster than the non-biodegradable while the non-biodegradable remained strong even after the trial study period of 545 days.
Composition and change
There are two types of airsoft BBs, biodegradable and non-biodegradable. The non-biodegradable is composed of plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. It has a chemical formula of (C8H8•C4H6•C3H3N) n. This compound is an amorphous thermoplastic polymer that is stable under normal conditions making it suitable for the manufacture of airsoft ammunition. The compound is also not water soluble.
These non-biodegradable plastics more often than not have a mineral or petroleum-based-center. When used on the environment, they could last for several centuries on end. These plastics end up making the soil infertile and as a result affect plant growth. Due to their smaller sizes and durability, they are bound to be picked up by kids or animals and consumed leading to complications. They may also be carried away by rain and be accumulated in drainage choke-points.
In large water bodies, they can be eaten by marine life and lead to complications and in severe cases lead to death.
The biodegradable airsoft ammunition, on the other hand, is made from a plastic known as polylactic acid (PLA) or otherwise known as polylactide. This compound is comprised of natural resources such as resin that could be either plant or synthetic. These pellets can quickly decompose over time and as such are no danger to the environment. Polylactic acid as a molecular formula of (C3H4O2). This compound is more expensive than Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS). Polylactic acid is also soluble in water. Airsoft BBs s available n a variety of colors depending on the manufacturer. The color may affect the visibility of the airsoft BBs. The white airsoft BBs are more visible while the other colored airsoft BBs are harder to see due to their ability to blend in with the surroundings.
Different types of companies and what they offer
Some brands offer cheap BBs which more often than not are the plastic pellets. Other companies offer pricey pellets which would also most likely be the biodegradable ammunition. Some of the best brands that are offered on the current market include:
- Valken Tactical 0.36 gram Bio BBs
- Elite Force 0.20 gram Biodegradable BBs
- Elite Force 0.25 gram Biodegradable BBs
So how do you tell the difference between biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs?
One of the most obvious ways to tell the difference between biodegradable pellets and non-biodegradable pellets is that they are usually indicated on the bottle. Companies that offer the biodegradable BBs often take pride in letting you know of their product. In some cases, however, there are some brands that have no labels; another method can be used.
Since most biodegradable made from polylactic acid, when the pellets are set aflame, they will burn with an orange flame but produce no smoke. For the non-biodegradable, the plastic burns with a yellow flame, and there is a lot of black smoke that follows.
In some cases, the biodegradable BBs have been reported to exude a characteristic foul smell especially when the seal is broken or the packaging is tampered with, allowing the pellets to decompose before or after use.
There is also a matter of price. The biodegradable BBs are usually more expensive compared to the non-biodegradable ones. This is understandable since the manufacturing involved in biodegradable BBs is different from biodegradability pellets. Packaging also affects the prices as biodegradable require special sealing to prevent them from exposure to the decomposing environment.
The last method that is not ideal but still works, is to use the BBs and wait to see if it decomposes over time. Though this process may or may not take long to notice that the other methods.Advantages and disadvantages of using either biodegradable and nonbiodegradable. As much as both biodegradable and non-biodegradable capabilities are identical in the field when it comes to shooting, here is undoubtedly an advantage in using either biodegradable or non-biodegradable that isn’t related to ballistics.
Benefits of using biodegradable BBs
- They are easy to get rid of once used as they are designed solely to be able to decompose once they are introduced to the environment.
- As a biodegradable material, they reduce the level of greenhouse gas levels.
- They do not pollute the environment. Some biodegradable use plant resin why others synthetic both of which are relatively harmless to the environment.
- Biodegradable pellets are usually safe in case they are ingested
- They require less landfill. Due to their rapid deteriorating nature compared to the non-biodegradable BBs, biodegradable pellets spend short periods in landfills and as such negating the need for expansion to accommodate more BBs.
Disadvantages of using biodegradable BBs
- They start decomposing once their seal is broken. This prompts immediate usage especially within the first week or months depending on the brand you are using.
- They also tend to shatter upon impact and release several fragments. This makes then banned in some facilities as they may cause injury to areas such as the mouth if not adequately protected.
- Due to their nature, biodegradable BBs have high costs even though their performance is still the same as that of nonbiodegradable BBs. Biodegradable BBs tend to have an oily film that jams the airsoft guns making it ineffective during a close-quarters-battle.
Advantages of using non-biodegradable BBs
- They do not shatter on impact making them much safer than the biodegradable pellets and as such require less protective gear compared to the biodegradable pellets.
- They are less expensive compared to the biodegradable since they have readily available materials such as plastics and petroleum products. They also don’t require special packaging which cuts down the costs.
- Unlike the biodegradable pellets, the non-biodegradable pellets can be recycled after use and thus saving production costs.
- Non-biodegradable BBs last longer than biodegradable BBs and as such can be used over time.
Disadvantages of using non-biodegradable BBs
- They pollute the environment. Since the non-biodegradable, they accumulate in the environment and can be harmful to animals or children when ingested.
- They take a lot longer to decompose compared to biodegradable BBs. While the biodegradable pellets may take anywhere from weeks to a year, non-biodegradable pellets take anywhere from 10- 1000 years to decompose.
Is there a solution?
Both biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs have their strength and weaknesses and can all be used to have fun. While the non-biodegradable has a hazardous effect on the environment, it can still be used in controlled environments and have less impact. Facilities that can use the plastic pellets should have the technology to remove the BBs once used and be recycled. This will not only reduce the costs, but also avoid pollution.
The biodegradable can be used by pretty much everyone as they have no adverse effect on the environment.
How to dispose of the biodegradable and nonbiodegradable BBs
Even though the biodegradable ultimately decomposes on its own over a short period of time. Having your yard littered with hundreds of pellets can sometimes be off-putting. In these cases, find the appropriate indoor close-quarters-battle that can allow you to pick the pellets up so that you can properly dispose of them; preferably in a landfill.
The options for the non-biodegradable BBs are a bit limited due to its longevity. It is due to this reason that recycling is the best and most preferred option to use. As the world embraces the use of biodegradable materials, it is important to ensure all areas are covered. Areas such as gaming and sports are not focused by a lot of governments. Many gamers end up finding out the hard way, usually with a yard full while balls. In my experience, not many people will be bothered by non-biodegradable airsoft BBs. But there are many environmental activists out there that will find this act damaging to the environment. Soon we will see demonstrations arise against environmental pollution as the society becomes more aware of global warming and its role to play in humanity’s future survival.
Biodegradation and world challenge that needs a collective When you buy a pack of Biodegradable BBs, you will see they arrive in a fixed water/air proof compartment or sack. This is on the grounds that bio BBs separate within sight of dampness, oxygen and additionally daylight (UV).
It’s regularly prescribed that you don’t open your Bio BBs until diversion day, to guarantee that they don’t start to debase before you use them. You don’t need to keep them fixed until you see the white of the foe’s eyes, however you shouldn’t open them months before you use them, either. You can also check out Gel Blaster. A great alternative to airsoft that uses biodegradable gel balls that are composed of water as ammunition.
In conclusion, airsoft BBs are both biodegradable and non-biodegradable. They both have an impact on the environment. While the biodegradable effect may take weeks up to a year to wear off, compared to the non-biodegradable, it is the better and definitely safer option if you are an airsoft wargame fan. The biodegradable pellets are mostly pricey as they incur extra costs for manufacture and packaging while the non-biodegradable are pocket-friendly. There is no difference in the ballistic performance of either two but the biodegradable tends to burst into shrapnel. In the end, we advise you use the most durable form of biodegradable BBs and do you part in helping maintain a clean environment.