What are Airsoft BBs Made of?
If you’re hunting for the best airsoft bbs, you may have noticed that a lot of them come with a warning label saying they’re not for use with food products. Why?! It turns out that most airsoft bb’s are made from pure, non-toxic plastic. But this post tells you exactly what are airsoft BBs made of. The bottom line is that airsoft bb’s are made of plastics, but those plastics vary from one type of bb to the next…
So, what are airsoft BBs made of? Airsoft BBs are made of both biodegradable and nonbiodegradable materials. Both types are made from types of plastics (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene for non-biodegradable and polylactic acid for biodegradable), but each plastic type has a different molecular formula affecting the rate by which they break down in nature. Some airsoft fields and arenas may restrict the types of BBs used, favoring biodegradable BBs over non-biodegradable BBs.
Airsoft bbs are the ammunition of choice for airsoft guns, and come in many shapes and sizes. Since they are made primarily from plastic, they are often referred to as “plastic BBs”. Most commonly, they are made from a type of plastic called polycarbonate. This type of plastic is not biodegradable , and will take hundreds of years to decompose when left in nature. On the other hand, airsoft bbs made from celluloid are made from a material that is partially biodegradable, and will decompose within a few years when left in the environment.
To read more on what are airsoft pellets made of and which type would be best for you to purchase and use, continue reading down below!
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What are Airsoft BBs Made of? (Non-Biodegradable)
Non-biodegradable BBs are made of acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic. These plastic BBs are very cheap to make and therefore cheap to buy. In addition, these ABS BBs are more durable, making them a preferred option.
BBs made from ABS plastics do not degrade over time in nature and do not dissolve in water. Non-biodegradable BBs are safe to use in most indoor airsoft fields. Some outdoor airsoft fields may not allow you to use non-biodegradable BBs on their fields, due to their inability to break down naturally.
When BBs are made with ABS plastics and not collected, they can leak toxic chemicals from the plastics, increasing landfill pollution.
What are Biodegradable Airsoft BBs Made of?
Biodegradable airsoft BBs, also referred to as “bios” are made from polylactic acid (PLA) plastic. This plastic is made from corn products and starches, which are all natural resources and renewable materials.
PLA plastics do break down over time, are water soluble, meaning they dissolve in water, and can break down in carbon dioxide as well. Biodegradable BBs can be broken down in appropriate recycling facilities. In these facilities, it takes around 47-90 days to break down. Outside of facilities and in nature, it will take longer.
When the PLA plastics are used for BBs, it has little to no damage on the environment either in its production or in its decomposition. This is in part why outdoor airsoft fields prefer and sometimes require players to play using biodegradable BBs.
Biodegradable vs. Non-Biodegradable Airsoft BBs
Beyond the chemical composition of biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs, there are more aspects to consider for BBs, such as cost, performance, compatibility, and shelf life.
Generally it is cheaper to produce non-biodegradable BBs due to the nature of the plastics and their production. Biodegradable BBs with a more complicated production process and its fairly new introduction into airsoft are more expensive as a result.
Modern advancements for biodegradable BBs makes their performance nearly identical to traditional non-biodegradable BBs. Therefore there is not a large difference in using ABS and PLA BBs. Most players will not be able to identify which type they are using based on their performance alone.
Most airsoft guns will be able to use both biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs, so compatibility with your airsoft gun is not an issue.
Biodegradable BBs are also made in the most common sizes and weights you would find traditional BBs in as well.
The shelf life of a biodegradable BB by its nature and composition is shorter than traditional non-biodegradable BBs. Due to the natural materials in the PLA plastics, the BBs will start to degrade faster than ABS BBs.
In addition, biodegradable BBs require more specific storage to delay degradation and decomposition by avoiding environments with moisture, oxygen, and sunlight.
Pros and Cons of Airsoft Biodegradable and Non-Biodegradable BBs
Look at the following table to help summarize the benefits and drawbacks from using both biodegradable and non-biodegradable BBs.
Biodegradable BB Pros
- Environmentally friendly
- Water soluble
- Break down between 47-90 days in recycling facilities
- Break down naturally outside
- Type of BBs required for many outdoor airsoft facilities
Biodegradable BB Cons
- More expensive
- Do take time to break down
- Require certain conditions to break down
- Need to be used faster than standard BBs
- Needs correct storage environments
Non-Biodegradable BB Pros
- Able to be used in indoor airsoft facilities
- Easily collected and cleaned up
- Can be stored more easily
- Can remain in storage for longer amounts of time
Non-Biodegradable BB Cons
- Do not break down over time
- Not environmentally friendly
- Not able to be used in most outdoor airsoft facilities