Canadian Plastics

Bioplastic shotgun wads make firearms more eco-friendly

Canadian Plastics   

Canadian Plastics Materials Sustainability

The new shotgun wads from Beyond Plastic and Eco Shot LLC can replace traditional wads made from polyethylene or polypropylene.

The new biodegradable shotgun wads can replace traditional wads typically made from polyethylene or polypropylene that contribute to plastic pollution. Photo Credit: Beyond Plastic/Eco Shot LLC

When even the firearms industry starts going green, you know the messaging about environmentalism is getting through.

Beyond Plastic, a Commerce, Calif.-based developer of sustainable polymers based on polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) technology, is working with manufacturing partner Eco Shot LLC, headquartered in Carbondale, Colo., to bring biodegradable shotgun wads to market. With Beyond Plastic’s 100 per cent biodegradable PHA 3D print filament, Eco Shot says it has successfully conducted rapid prototyping and created a design and production process for eco-friendly shotgun wads.

For the uninitiated, the “wad” is a critical component of a shotgun shell that keeps the shot together but separate from the powder, creating a tighter, safer shot pattern and a more consistent discharge. Until the 1970s, shotgun wads were made of paper or cardboard, but during that decade manufacturers switched to plastic – typically either polyethylene or polypropylene – in order to lower manufacturing costs and increase ease of production. The problem is, because the wad is discharged with the shot and travels quite a distance before separating, and is often shot over water, hunters don’t consider them retrievable, leading to a build-up of wad litter in freshwater and estuarine waters, as well as on hunting reserves. As a result, plastic wads have been reported as a common debris item collected during cleanups of beaches and landscapes, and have been found in the stomachs of fish, foraging birds, and other wildlife.

The PHA biodegradable wads are designed to offer a sustainable solution to mitigate these concerns. Derived from renewable resources such as plant oils, PHA decomposes naturally, minimizing environmental harm and reducing the accumulation of plastic waste.

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“The PHA biodegradable shotgun wads, designed by Eco Shot, are made to tackle the problem at the source,” said Beyond Plastic’s chief technology officer Fred Pinczuk. “After each wad is discharged, it will naturally biodegrade into the soil in a matter of months, as opposed to traditional plastic that lasts for hundreds of years.”

There’s no doubt the problem to be solved is a big one: According to the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, worldwide production of shotgun wads has been estimated at a whopping 10 to 15 billion wads every year for the last 50 years, with each wad equalling the same amount of plastic as two grocery bags. But the PHA biodegradable wads are certainly a step in the right direction. “With Beyond Plastic’s PHA filament, we’re able to conduct rapid prototyping for our designs, which allows us to increase our offerings and meet the needs of a broader range of hunting activities,” said Eco Shot founder Andrew Thomas. “This next generation of shotgun wads is going to bolster the hunting community’s focus on improving environmental practices and ongoing commitment to wildlife conservation.”

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