airsoft BB

What are Biodegradable Airsoft BBs made of?

Airsoft BBs

Somehow I already cared about the environment(nature) as a teenager. As I look back now, the reason for that must be my passion for outdoors.
Going out and do something is what I like in spare time…

One of my outdoor passions is playing Airsoft. And last week while we’re sitting there in the sun after an Airsoft game I saw all those BBs. And from that time I constantly think about what will happen with all those BBs somehow. I asked my friends but they also didn’t have a clue.

Actually I can be upset when I see a plastic bag left in nature but why do we not care about all those plastic BBs left in nature? Do we have to accept this? What can we do to keep a clean environment?

The least we can do is buying biodegradable BBs. But are they really biodegradable? Before we answer those questions we have to ask ourselves this:

What are biodegradable Airsoft BBs made of? Biodegradable BBs are made from a special blend (various types of resin) of materials that are designed to break down  over time when exposed to the environment. Better makes are certified as compostable.

OK, so there are biodegradable BBs? But are they quite as good as non-biodegradable BBs? And how long does it take for biodegradable BBs to decompose? I hope you are as curious as I am because I can’t look at all those BBs on the ground anymore…

What Raw Materials are Used?

Biodegradable Airsoft BBs are made of various types of resin. What actually is resin? Well, resin is a solid or highly viscous substance of plant or synthetic origin that is typically convertible into polymers. Resins are actually mixtures of organic compounds. Plants secrete resins for their protective benefits in response to injury. Source

airsoft bb type
Airsoft BBs

A mixture of biodegradable processes is being used to produce biodegradable BBs with homogeneous resin construction.

So it seems that these BBs are made of natural raw materials and so I expect that nature can break these BBs down to compost. But is biodegradable also compostable?

Biodegradable or Compostable

First of all I’d like to mention the two different materials used in biodegradable Airsoft BBs. We distinguish liquid and power based materials.
Powder based BBs (old ones): were the first bio BBs and unfortunately most problems are related to these BBs which has affected their reputation. And the reputation of new better biodegradable BBs.
New Bio BBs: The actual bio BBs are made from organic based plastics and not petroleum based. You have to look out for these bio plastics: PHA, PHB and PLA.

Biodegradable vs Compostable

I didn’t know but biodegradable isn’t the same as compostable. Both compostable and biodegradable materials are intend to return to the earth safely. But biodegradable materials are designed to break down within landfills while compostable materials require special compost conditions.

So for those BBs falling on the ground after being shot, it takes years and decades of time for that to compost and go away. Biodegradable – break down under pressure and heat in a landfill setting – is not that kind of situation where Airsoft BBs fall into.

Biodegradable BBs are actually compostable BBs what means that they need to compose and go away. And that will take a very long time. We’re talking about years and decades of time for that to compost and go away.

So if you’re regularly shoot in your backyard, you probably will find those fired BBs  after 10 years. Of course you will see some compose progress on these BBs but don’t expect to see progress in 2 years or even five years.

The truly biodegradable BBs are kind of made from press powder. But when they get wet they will swole up and  turned into a sticky mass. These are really biodegradable but not appropriate for Airsoft.

How Long Does it Take for Biodegradable BBs to Decompose?

Well, it depends on the environment and your surroundings. Airsoft is played all over the world so how fast they compose really depends on climate and surroundings. In Europe we have a maritime climate so I expect that BBs decompose faster than  in a continental climate.

Valken 0.36gr BB
Airsoft BBs

This difference has an impact – as several other factors – but that doesn’t mean that it takes less than a couple of years to decompose. No, we’re talking about a long period of time. We’re talking about decades rather than two, three or five years to compost and go away. I hope that they invent a truly biodegradable BB some day. It’s better for the environment and our next generations.  

Biodegradable or Regular BBs – What Is The Difference?

I’ve heard so many opinions on both regular BBs and biodegradable BBs that it becomes confusing to me. Which one to choose? Let’s first break down what these opinions are:

Biodegradable BBs:

  • Break down in a few years
  • Lack of quality
  • Tend to shatter / break on hard objects
  • Environmental friendly
  • More jam on your Airsoft replica (due to oily film)

Regular BBs:

  • Less expensive
  • Last for several decades
  • Not good for the environment
  • More weight variations
  • Better quality

The older bio BBs unfortunately have a bad reputation on quality. But the newer ones – the organic based plastics – are the better ones. Choose for PHA, PHB or PLA. Biodegradable BBs are as good as non-biodegradable BBs these days so I prefer bio BBs.

California Study

In my research I found a California study with topic: “Airsoft and the Environment: What Happens to all the BBs? “

It’s an experiment whereby a control group and 15 test trays with 3 different types of BBs were exposed to 3 environmental variables: exposure to sunlight, exposure to soil and exposure to soil and grass clippings. The objective is to determine if biodegradable BBs do biodegrade and whether they biodegrade faster than non-biodegradable BBs.

The conclusions of this project: Biodegradable BBs will degrade faster than non-biodegradable BBs. The results also showed that non-biodegradable BBs didn’t biodegrade over the time span of this experiment (545 days). The plastic BBs slowly weaken over time.

To reduce plastic in the environment it’s important that we choose biodegradable BBs over non-biodegradable BBs.

Related Questions

What are the best biodegradable Airsoft BBs? The best bio Airsoft BBs are: G&G 0.20g BIO BBs, Elite Force 0.25g BIO BBs and Evike 0.28g BIO BBs. Where the G&G 0.20g BBs are best used in pistols that shoot up to 300fps, where the Elite Force 0.25g BBs are the best Rifle BBs that shoot up to 500fps (300-500 fps) and where the Evike 0.28g BBs are best for high end Rifles that shoot over 500fps.

How do I care of my BBs? After you bought your favorite BBs, you can decide to wash them in order to remove mold release residue on the surface of the BBs. After washing the BBs, keep them in a cold, dark and dry place. Biodegradable BBs will start degrading in hot and humid environments.