What’s the Difference Between Biodegradable BB’s and Normal BBs?

Are airsoft BB’s bad for the environment? Let’s dive in and see.

When you are in the market for airsoft BBs, there are two major types to choose from. You have the normal or regular BBs, i.e., ones that aren’t biodegradable, and then you have the biodegradable ones. Airsoft players that care about the environment will often lean in favor of the environmentally friendly ones. However, the question is, do these so-called biodegradable BBs really contribute towards making the environment healthier, or is it just slick marketing?

Technologically speaking, it is possible to manufacture biodegradable BBs but are these companies really selling biodegradable BBs? In this article, we’ll take a look at the differences between biodegradable BBs and Normal BBs. However, if you don’t want to read through how we found out what we did, we can tell you that biodegradable BBs are, in fact, not a gimmick, and as far as we can tell, they are the future of the game. Though there will always be a place for regular BBS, and that’s something we’ll explain in this article too.

BB weight

What Damage Does Airsoft BBs Do to The Environment?

Let’s say you’ve got a squad of 20 airsoft players that are shooting BBs across the field. Potentially, thousands of BBs are being shot across between players throughout the game. Now take that figure and multiply that by one hundred games, and you have potentially hundreds of thousands of BBs somewhere in the glass and in the mud in just one year alone.

The only reason why most airsoft fields don’t show signs of BBs piling up is that most of them are cleared up, but also many go inside the ground, making them near impossible to find. Now imagine you have an airsoft field opening up in the forest to offer a realistic experience of fighting in the jungle; what damage do you think all those BBs can do? Regular BBs will take too long to be absorbed into the ground, and even after we were able to clear the ground, we’re still corrupting mother nature.

So, it’s evident that regular BBs are very bad for the environment.

If you happen to play at an indoor airsoft field, then collecting BBs is much easier. Most businesses have a vacuum cleaner or will use a broom to remove them from the ground, after which they are sent to the nearest recycling center. Sure, the non-biodegradable type of BBs can and are recycled, but those that aren’t be dug from the earth can’t.

We strongly feel that if you are going to be playing outdoors, it should be mandatory to use biodegradable BBs. The good news is that many fields are now prohibiting regular BBs, so biodegradable ones are now mandatory. However, they are old-school airsoft fields that still allow regular plastic BBs. But, as mentioned earlier, if used indoors, it isn’t so bad for the environment.

Today, the number of players that are getting into airsoft is more than ever before. However, with its growing adoption, there seems to be some standardization which includes mandating the use of biodegradable BBs.

Normal BBs Vs Bio BB’s

To understand the impact of regular, i.e., the non-degradable types on the environment and even on your game, you need to know what they are made from. Regular BBs are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which is just a fancy name for a special type of plastic. The upside to this plastic is that it is cheap to manufacture yet is durable enough to be shot out of an airsoft gun. In addition to being used to make BBs, this type of plastic is used to manufacture housings, electronics, toys, etc.

Biodegradable BBs, on the other hand, are made from polylactic acid (PLA), referred to at times as polylactide. The reason why manufacturers choose this material is that polylactic acid (PLA) degrades in water. Also, it is made from renewable resources like corn starch, sugarcane, and tapioca roots. It is also a known polyester in the medical industry in supplements and food mainly because of its excellent biodegradability.

If they are ingested, being made from polylactic acid (PLA) means they are safe. So, both humans and animals aren’t going to end up in the emergency room. At most, some people may experience some mild indigestion.

How Long Do They (biodegradable BBs) Take to Degrade?

A relatively recent study conducted in 2014 in California to determine the time it took for biodegradable airsoft BBs to decompose faster found that they took over 545 days to decompose. Even though the goal of the study was to compare biodegradable BBs with their non-biodegradable counterparts, it was evident from the findings that the latter hardly ever degraded.

When examining the conditions under which biodegradability was affected, the research found that moisture was a major factor.

The more moisture the ground had, the sooner the biodegradable BBs would decompose.

So, how long do regular BBs take to decompose? Well, according to various experiments, it can take anywhere from 3-7 years for them to break down. So, it’s evident that biodegradable BBs tend to degrade 4-7 times faster.

Can Using a Biodegradable BB Jam The Gun Vs. A Normal BB?

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As much as we are proponents of biodegradable BBs, we have to admit that there are a couple of downsides associated with using them. In most cases, a biodegradable BB isn’t going to jam up in the gun, similar to a regular BB. In other words, a biodegradable BB is just as likely to get jammed as a regular BB under standard protocols. So, what does that mean? Well, that means knowing the difference between both types of BBs, which also means that there are certain rules you need to follow when using them.

One standard rule when it comes to using biodegradable BBs is that once the air-tight container or bag has been opened, it has to be used.

Biodegradable BBs will start decomposing as soon as they come in contact with sunlight and oxygen.

So, you need to be attentive when they were let out of their boxes and try to consume a single container during the course of a day’s combat (for lack of a better word).

However, we’ve found that if stored correctly under the right conditions, they can be used for a second game. But if you wait too long and notice something suspicious, like them probably becoming soft, then throw them away.

One way to check if they have started decomposing in some way is to check how structurally sound the BBs are by pressing on them slightly. If you see that they are easily damaged, then there is a possibility they will get jammed. Also, it isn’t uncommon for biodegradable BBs to swell a little, which isn’t hard to notice.

The second rule of using biodegradable BBs is to keep them away from moisture. Moisture or wet conditions tend to affect them the most, causing them to break down faster under these conditions.

If your Bio BBs get wet, we recommend throwing them away instead of using them.

When it comes to storing biodegradable BBs, ideally, they ought to be stored in a cool, dark, and oxygen-free environment. To maximize their efficiency, open a box of these BBs when the match starts and then use them ASAP. Sure, they can last you months if stored under the right conditions, but that can be challenging for most people who can’t do it logistically and otherwise.

In general thought, if you have a high quality AEG or gas gun, it’ll fire both bio and non-bio BB’s just fine. The best airsoft pistol we own is able to sling bio BB’s at the same distance and accuracy as it can non-bio BB’s.

Which BBs Offer the Best Price to Performance Ratio?

We’ll start off by saying that there is no noticeable performance difference between regular BBs and their biodegradable counterparts. Both BBs are designed to serve the same purpose so as long as they aren’t damaged. However, when it comes to damage, the biodegradable ones (for reasons mentioned above) are the most susceptible to damage.

In our opinion and based on some limited research, most people are hesitant to make a change to biodegradable BBs because of pricing. Biodegradable BBs are between 10% to 30% more expensive than their regular counterparts but offer similar performance if used based on the protocols we discussed above. It is mainly because of the difference in materials and the costs associated with those materials that these biodegradable BBs are more expensive.

However, in the grand scheme of trying to protect the environment, the little extra you pay is worth it.

BB Weight Differences

The weight differences between biodegradable BBs and regular ones are non-existent. You can find biodegradable BBs of the same weight as regular BBs. Not to mention that regular BBs are available in different sizes too similar to their biodegradable counterparts.

If you are worried about not finding the right weight BBs you are comfortable using when switching to biodegradable BBs, then don’t. We can almost bet that you’ll find BBs with precisely the same weight. Most online stores now give you the option to buy a biodegradable alternative to the BBs you’re thinking of purchasing.

Best Airsoft BB’s for Sniper in Terms of Weight

Generally, most people will buy BBs that are compatible with their airsoft sniper rifle. Most sniper rifles come with a small user’s manual, which outlines all the BBs you can use with it safely.

Regardless of if you choose biodegradable BBs or normal BBs, sniper rifles generally work best with heavier BBs. BBs that weigh around 0.30grams to 0.40 grams offer the most flight stability and the longest possible range. That’s why they are so commonly used in AEGS and various sniper rifles. However, these BBs require more force to be moved further, which again can only be produced by a high-powered airsoft sniper rifle.

Anyone who is in doubt about which BBs they should use in the sniper rifle should refer to the users’ manual and maybe speak to an expert.

Conclusion – Which BBs are Better, Bio or Non-Bio BB’s?

Honestly, we can’t tell you which BBs are going to be best for you. Both biodegradable BBs and regular BBs are meant to be used in airsoft guns while being designed for reliability.

Personally, we’ll always choose biodegradable BBs. For us, they are a better choice and the future of the sport. However, they may be prohibitive for some folk since they are more expensive, and you need to use them in a particular way or store them correctly. If you want to play indoor shooting games or lots of it, regular BBs are cheaper and better options because all the BBs can then be scooped up and recycled. However, if it is in an open field, biodegradable BBs are a better choice since those that get stuck in the ground will not become an environmental hazard.

If you are an airsoft player and are worried about destroying the land on your property or even mother nature’s property, use eco-friendly biodegradable BBs. If anything using these BBs is giving respect to the land, we’ve inherited and making sure we are passing it on to future generations with the least amount of damage. The few extra dollars shouldn’t bother you in the grand scheme of things.

Timothy Hackett

Tim has been playing airsoft since 1994. With over a thousand (no lie) airsoft games under his belt he has spent countless hours testing various airsoft guns and tactical gear. He's gotten hundreds (still no lie) of people into the airsoft hobby and is more than willing to spread the love of slinging 6mm plastic to any new player.

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