Airsoft guns use a special type of plastic called ABS to make their BBs, or ammunition. While this plastic is much lighter than metal BBs, it is still non-biodegradable, so if you find a used BB on your lawn, it hasn’t been there long. Biodegradable airsoft BBs, on the other hand, are made with a different type of plastic that will break down in the soil. Many companies claim that their BBs will decompose in a matter of days, but how long does it really take?
How long does it take for airsoft pellets to biodegrade? Depending on the type of airsoft pellets, it can take months to years for pellets to fully decompose. Non-biodegradable pellets will take around three to seven years to break down. Biodegradable pellets will take around one to three months to degrade.
To read more on the time it takes for airsoft pellets/BBs to biodegrade, continue down below!
Biodegradable Airsoft BBs: How Long Does it Take?
Airsoft pellets, no matter the type, are made of plastics. Regardless of the type of plastic, it will take some time for an airsoft pellet to biodegrade.
The time it takes to biodegrade will also be determined based on the environment or actions taken to speed up the biodegrading process.
If in the correct environment it can take months for BBs to biodegrade, but if left to naturally decompose it will take several years.
How Long Does it Take for Non-Biodegradable Airsoft Pellets to Biodegrade?
Non-biodegradable BBs are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. This is a cheap type of BB to produce, which makes it very popular. Due to the nature of ABS plastics, it can take years to decompose.
Even after the years, there are still traces of the plastics still found years after.
The chemicals found in the plastics seep as toxic chemicals into the ground and pollute the environment. Even if they are picked up and tossed in the trash, the BB will still take years to biodegrade and the chemicals will cause landfill pollution.
How Long Does it Take for Biodegradable Airsoft Pellets to Biodegrade?
Biodegradable airsoft BBs are made from polylactic acid (PLA) plastic. This plastic is made from corn products and starches, which are all-natural resources and renewable materials.
When biodegradable BBs are exposed to water and carbon dioxide they will begin to break down. In recycling facilities, the process can take between 47 and 90 days to biodegrade.
If the BBs are outside and left on the ground, they can take longer. If it has suitable conditions, it will be decomposed within a year.
How do BBs Even Biodegrade?!
In taking into consideration the length of time taken for airsoft pellets to biodegrade, it is important to know how the pellets will biodegrade. Based on the different properties of the plastics used in biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs, they will decompose differently leading to different rates of decomposition as well.
Non-biodegradable BBs made from ABS plastics will not quickly break down in nature. When it is left outside in your yard or an outdoor arena, these BBs will take years to decompose. When they do decompose they will leak out toxic chemicals into the soil around them.
ABS can be taken to and recycled at certain facilities, but airsoft BBs, are not labeled in the way recyclable plastics are labeled and thus would be sent to the landfill regardless if placed with your regular recycling.
When exposed to high temperatures of 750℉ or above, ABS plastics will begin to decompose. When decomposing, ABS will break up into its component compounds of butadiene, acrylonitrile, and styrene, each of which are believed to be some degree of carcinogenic to humans.
No matter the mode of decomposition, each will result in carcinogens harmful to both humans and the environment.
Biodegradable BBs’ PLA plastic composition can be broken down through three main mechanics: hydrolysis, thermal degradation, and photodegradation.
Hydrolysis is when the PLA is exposed to water and the chemical compounds break down. Even with rain and groundwater, bio BBs can begin the decomposition process.
Thermal degradation is the exposure of PLA to higher temperatures to cause the PLA to begin to decompose. In nature, the temperatures are not high enough to cause a very quick decomposition, but in industrial composes the speed will increase.
Last, photodegradation causes chemical breakdown through UV radiation. Sunlight allows for the breakdown of BBs, however, it is a slower decomposition rate unless in manufactured UV environments for recycling.
Each of these biodegrading mechanics is possible outside of industrial facilities, which is why it is important to keep your biodegradable BBs in a water-tight container in a cool and dark place in your home to slow down and unwanted decomposition.