The European Government has voted for an extensive ban on single use plastic to help fight the pollution entering the worlds oceans and destroying wildlife and natural habitats. From 2021 products from plastics such as cutlery, straws, cotton buds, plates etc. will all be banned.
The plastic debate has been a hot topic in recent years and I for one am pleased to hear that we are addressing the issue. Last year I met with a Managing Director of a leading packaging firm who estimated that around 8-10 million metric tonnes of plastic enter our oceans each year. It is killing wildlife and polluting our waters.
This led me to thinking about plastic in our sport. I'm sure I am not the only one that has questioned this but it is something that has crossed my mind a few times over the last 24 months. You can all guess what it is... Shotgun Cartridges. I cant imagine the figures but every weekend hundreds of thousands of rounds of shotgun cartridges must be fired across the globe creating huge amounts of plastic waste. There a few of us who load their own cartridges and make use of spent cartridges multiple times but even then at some point they will end up in the bin or left in the corner of a field somewhere.
We also have the issue of plastic wadding being used regularly across the sport. Some clubs allow it and even some shoots. But should we really be firing bits of plastic across our beautiful countryside regardless of whether we can or not? Is it time we do our bit to contribute to a more sustainable environment? Is it time for the manufacturers to join the debate and lead from the front?
I have reached out to a few of the leading cartridge manufacturers in the UK for comment. I want to know what pressures they are receiving to reduce their use of plastic, what innovative changes they have planned and what commitments they are going to make.
I for one will always opt for a fibre wad cartridge where possible, regardless of whether the shooting ground allows for plastic. Shouldn't we all be doing our part to reduce plastic consumption? I have been told that in certain cases plastic wadding is necessary for the likes of the Wildfowling community using steel shot. But if we don't need to use plastic wadding shouldn't we all commit to going for fibre wad where possible. Indeed, if the demand for plastic wadding drops, this in turn will effect the manufacturing requirements.
Back in the day (well before I started shooting), paper shotgun cartridges were the most popular material for making cartridges before plastic cases were introduced. I personally have never fired a paper cartridge and can only assume that plastic cartridges were introduced as the manufacturing techniques evolved and plastic was perhaps more cost efficient. I guess that plastic cartridges also provide better efficiency and durability in wet weather out in the field. Is it feasible for manufacturers to start looking at making a move back to paper cartridges?
Of course there will be a need for plastic cartridges, but couldn't we greatly reduce the plastic consumption by switching to fibre wads and paper cases for the majority of shooting activities? Everyone I know that has shot with paper cartridges have said fantastic things about them, and every single one has commented on the beautiful smell they produce like it brings back memories of a special day out in the field. I have also heard that paper shotgun cartridges provide excellent patterns!
On a separate note, what are you doing with all of your empty cases? I must admit that I normally throw them in the bucket and never think about them again. YorkGate gun club in Otley had a fantastic idea and have been using all the left over cartridges to fill large containers and in turn use these containers to create walls around the ground for wind protection. A number of people I follow on Instagram use cartridge cases to make Christmas Wreaths, coffee tables and accessories etc. A great way to get the most out what would normally be considered waste.
What are your thoughts? If paper cartridges were made readily available at the same cost of our current plastic ones, would you stock up on them for a days shooting? Can you do your bit by switching to fibre wad cartridges?