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Biodegradation

GreenOps Ammo’s waterfowl ammunition uses a gas seal and a separate shot wad, both of which are made from biodegradable polymers.  While they look and feel like conventional plastics with which you may be familiar, GreenOps Ammo does not use conventional plastics.  Instead, we only use polymers that are proven to biodegrade according to well-established standards.   

All polymers and formulations used in the GreenOps shot wads have been Vincotte-certified as “OK Biodegradable Water”, “OK Biodegradable Soil”, “OK Compost”, and “OK Compost Home”, and meet the ASTM D7081 standard for non-floating biodegradable plastics in marine environments. All polymers and formulations used in the GreenOps gas seals have been at minimum Vincotte-certified as “OK Compost”, and have demonstrated excellent biodegradability in freshwater and seawater, but have not received the additional certifications listed above. 

 

How long does it take your products to biodegrade?

Unfortunately, we can’t give a particular time, or even a guaranteed range of times.  That is because the decomposition time of our wads is dependent on the environment, as is the case, for example, with wood.  

How long does it take wood to biodegrade?  That depends on the environment. That piece of mulch lying on the top of the mulch bed typically takes longer to biodegrade than mulch that is pressed into contact with the soil.  The untreated pine 2 x 4s that perhaps form the structural backbone of your house typically biodegrade very slowly (especially if you keep away the termites).  In contrast, painted exterior wooden molding tends to degrade all too rapidly, at least in the eyes of most homeowners.  Wooden hulls of shipwrecks at the bottom of the ocean can be almost pristine after a century or more in constant exposure to a marine environment, as the anoxic bottom of a cold, dark ocean is not a good environment for biodegradation.

So it’s impossible to answer this question with a guaranteed time range.  Our gas seals will take longer than the shot wads to break down and be re-assimilated into the natural carbon cycle.  It can take months, or it can take years.  In the meantime, our wads and gas seals will tend to sink in water, they have minimal toxicity, and they will break down much, much more quickly than conventional plastic.

 

Minimal toxicity?  What does that mean?  Shouldn’t the standard be “completely non-toxic”?

That’s a great question, and we’d urge you to read, for example, this scientific publication, co-authored by the GreenOps Ammo CEO, discussing the issues of biodegradability, non-toxicity, and the deficiencies of existing standards and policies.

Everything is toxic in some form, at some concentration, to some organism.  Pure water is a great example.  Glucose is another:  your body is powered by glucose, but too much glucose is a real problem for a diabetic.  Cotton is another example.  It’s a great fabric, we happily wear it on our bodies, and sleep on cotton sheets.  Cotton is a benign and relatively non-toxic material.  But is it non-toxic?  Not to people with brown lung disease from inhaling cotton dust. 

The point is that absolute non-toxicity to organisms is not feasible; instead, we need relative standards.  To our knowledge, the materials used by GreenOps Ammo, including the polymers, additives, and resulting formulations, are relatively safe.  GreenOps will not knowingly use anything that we believe carries significant toxicity risks. 

 

If shot into water, will your products migrate out into the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

Highly unlikely!  GreenOps uses polymers that are significantly more dense that water (unlike conventional plastics), and thus they tend to sink.  However, iron floats if shaped properly and kept clear of icebergs, so fragments of our wads can float.  It is unlikely they will float all that far, however.  Instead, they will tend to sink in place, and biodegrade in waters near the shore.

 

Can you provide us the formulations of your materials?

Sorry, that is a trade secret.  Maybe at some point in the future we will provide that information.  We are a small startup company without the benefit of a lot of financing, political clout, or economies of scale.  We have to rely on our technology, and our patent protection.  We are willing to say that our primary polymer is a polyhydroxyalkanoate, which are naturally occurring biopolymers that are used for energy storage by microbes all over the planet.

 

Does GreenOps Ammo use lead shot in any of its loads?

No.  Lead is quite toxic and harmful to species across the ecosystem, which is too bad because lead is otherwise a fabulous material for shot given its low cost and high density.  If you’re using lead buckshot for home defense, we’re all for it.  But for target shooting or hunting, we believe other shot materials should be used.

 

GreenOps Ammo appears to be using only steel shot loads.  Will you use other non-lead shot materials that provide better ballistic performance than steel?

We may do so in the future.  Unfortunately, the costs of such materials are quite high. Our intent is to reduce the plastic pollution from conventional wads, and we won’t make much of an impact if our product is only a niche, high-cost product that is too expensive for most potential customers.

 

Are your hulls biodegradable?

No, are hulls do not use biodegradable plastic.  Please pick them up after firing.