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Technology

GreenOps Ammo is developing a complete line of shotgun ammunition incorporating our patented biodegradable shotgun wad technology.  

We have developed a shotgun wad made from a biodegradable polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA) plastic along with additives.  We have incorporated these wads into 12 gauge shotgun shells, and our products outperform some commercial ammunition, providing an environmentally preferable product that gives repeatable, outstanding shot patterns along with acceptable velocities.  As shown in the time-series of images below, our wads leave the barrel intact, then break apart and release the shot within several feet of leaving the barrel.

For more information and answers to common questions, see below.

 

Who could benefit from this technology, and when will it be available?  We anticipate launching a full line of shotgun shells in 2018, with beta testing available in late 2017.  We hope that GreenOps Ammo becomes the smart choice for hunting reserves, wildlife refuges, public lands, shooting ranges, or anyone looking to reduce plastic litter on their property.

 

What’s a shotgun wad and what happens after a gun is fired?  The term “wad” refers to a component of a shotgun shell that is used to:  (1) separate the shot from the powder, (2) contain the shotgun shot, and (3) provide a seal that prevents gas from blowing through the shot rather than propelling the shot out of the shotgun.

The shotgun shell has a plastic case and, after firing the shotgun, the case remains in the shotgun and is manually discharged by the operator, while the wad leaves the gun along with the shot. Regulations typically require hunters to retain their spent casings and properly dispose of them, but unlike the casing, the plastic wads travel significant distances after the gun is fired and cannot easily be recovered.  For example, when hunters hunt for waterfowl using shotguns, the conventional (non-degradable) plastic wads are routinely discharged into the adjoining water.  Due to the range of shotguns, there is no practical way to recover spent shotgun wads.  Plastic wads for shotgun shells are reported as one of the most common marine debris items collected during beach cleanups (NOAA 2012).

 

What’s the problem with current shotgun wads?  Presently, most wad manufacturers utilize a non-degradable plastic such as polyethylene.  Spent shotgun wads can present safety, nuisance, and environmental impacts in freshwater and estuarine waters.  Spent wads have been found in the stomach contents of ocean foraging birds including the albatross, presumably due to their likeness to squid which is a common prey item.  The consumption of plastic leads to reduced fitness and mortalities of aquatic species.

Just because a shotgun wad or any other plastic eventually breaks apart into microscopic pieces (maybe even pieces so small they can’t be seen!) doesn’t mean that the plastic is gone, or harmless.  These microplastics can persist for hundreds or thousands of years, and during that time they continue to be damaging to the environment.   Microplastic fragments have become a significant marine debris concern worldwide because microplastics can concentrate organic contaminants and are ultimately propagated up the food chain.   

 

What is a bioDegradable Internal Component Wad? 

All GreenOps shells incorporate our proprietary DICwads™.  Our injection-molded DICwads™ look and feel like traditional plastic wads, and most importantly, they perform like (and generally better than) traditional plastic wads in standardized pattern tests and shot string performance.  However, unlike conventional plastic shotgun wads, DICwads™ are fully biodegradable on land and in both marine and freshwater environments. 

As for the name - well, we're easily amused.  We hope you're not offended, but if so, maybe you'll also be offended by unnecessary plastic pollution, and we encourage you to do something about it.

 

How are DICwads™ different?  Unlike conventional wads, our wads are made from a naturally occurring material called polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which is produced by bacteria to store energy (similar to humans storing energy as fat).  Most other biopolymers that are advertised as being biodegradable tend to biodegrade extraordinarily slowly (think geological time scales) unless given ideal conditions in a compost heap (and we suspect you, like us, don’t have a lot of experience shooting wads into compost heaps).  In contrast, PHA completely biodegrades on land or in water (whether in the Caribbean or off the coast of Maine or in a wastewater treatment plant), and does it in a meaningful time frame. 

Note that before the advent of plastics, shotgun wads were all made from biodegradable materials such as wool felt or cardboard.  Injection moldable plastics provided cost and performance advantages, and were rapidly adopted by the industry.  Importantly, our wad technology has the beneficial properties of a plastic wad without the negative effects on the environment.  

 

What is PHA?   Does it really biodegrade completely?  Is it used in other products?

GreenOps ammunition utilizes shotgun wads made from the naturally occurring biopolymer polyhydroxyalkanoate (PHA), which is produced by bacteria that live on land and in water (including both marine and freshwater environments).  Bacteria produce PHA as a small granule to store energy, similar to humans storing energy as fat.  When confronted with PHA, bacteria are naturally able to break it down as part of their metabolic cycle.   

PHA has similar physical characteristics to conventional plastics and meets the American Society of Testing and Materials certification as biodegradable in aquatic environments, European Standards and Vincotte International certification for biodegradation, as well as meeting US Food and Drug Administration standards for use in food contact, housewares, cosmetics, and medical packaging. 

The development of our product is based of years of research by GreenOps founders who used PHA  as (1) a biodegradable substitute for plastic in numerous consumer products including plastic microbeads in cosmetic formulations such as toothpaste, make-up, facial creams, and (2) biodegradable escape panels for lobster, crab, and fish traps.  Both PHA microbeads and PHA biopanels are available commercially.  For example, biodegradable escape panels can be purchased from Mobjack Binnacle Products