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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 comparable steel-shot commercial ammunition, providing an environmentally preferable product that gives repeatable, outstanding shot patterns along with industry standard 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 will begin commercial sales in 2018.  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.  

 

 

How are GreenOps wads different?  Unlike conventional wads, our wads are made from a biodegradable polymer formulation that genuinely biodegrades on land and in water.  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, our wads completely biodegrade on land or in water (whether in the Caribbean or off the coast of Maine or in a wastewater treatment plant).  They do not degrade immediately, but they are non-toxic, and if they are in water, they tend to sink. 

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.