The home of Shooting Times and Sporting Gun

What can Guns do about plastic?

As public opinion turns against plastic, we must think seriously about the use of plastic shotcups — particularly when shooting over wetlands

Wildfowling on foreshore

We must think seriously about the use of plastic shotcups - particularly when shooting over wetlands

I’m talking rubbish again. After my account in Shooting Times of wildfowlers organising a litter-picking day at Lindisfarne , a reader pointed me to an item in the Daily Telegraph.

The report starts: “Organisers of marathons and other outdoor events have been urged to do more to clear up the thousands of plastic bottles left behind by competitors. It follows a row over the number of plastic bottles dumped by participants in the Brighton half-marathon which then blew out to sea.”

It seems that the event had been sponsored by Lucozade. Many of the runners gratefully snatched a bottle as they sped past, glugged down the contents on the run, then simply chucked the empty away and carried on. One local resident posted on Facebook: “It was a shocking sight to see all those bottles strewn along the beach and promenade.”

Friends of the Earth joined in the chorus of disapproval, calling for more to be done at outdoor sporting events, including mass runs such as “…the ones that take place on Hackney Marshes, which are left covered in empty plastic bottles when everyone has gone home”.

Glastonbury plastic

Plastic litters the ground after Glastonbury

Biodegradable bottles

I don’t know why environmentally aware brands haven’t developed a biodegradable bottle. Especially when plastic water and energy drink bottles are often associated with the sort of outdoor activities that the green lobby normally favours.

In truth, some of those who are so 
eager to parade their green credentials 
are, in practice, pretty damn selfish when 
it comes to their own behaviour. Just look 
at Glastonbury, the music festival lauded by the BBC and left-wing politicians — remember the crowds singing “Oh, Jeremy Corbyn” at Glastonbury last summer? Those same right-on revellers managed to discard a mountain of junk, most of it plastic, over 900 acres of farmland. It seems the festival-goers simply dropped their trash where they danced.

An estimated 500,000 sacks of rubbish had to be cleared from the site afterwards, at a cost to the organisers of £785,000.

Plastic shotcups

Yet before we feel smug, let’s think about plastic shotcups. Many game shoots and leases now insist on fibre wads only, not least out of concern for livestock that might eat plastic wads. This fibre-only policy makes sense: we cannot expect our claims about caring for the countryside to be taken seriously if we insist on scattering plastic wads all over the landscape.

A post shared by Dan Brown (@db_hunting) on

But plastic shotcups are still used for almost all steel wildfowling loads. Steel is hard and abrasive. It needs to be shielded from direct contact with the inside of shotgun barrels. Hence plastic shotcups are the norm for steel loads. Yet using non-toxic shot while at the same time blasting bits of plastic out over wetlands is an environmental own-goal, isn’t it?

Producing a biodegradable shotcup for steel loads is fraught with technical difficulties. Gamebore has managed it, with its Silver Steel Bio-Wad cartridges. Yet these are currently only available in 32-gr loads of steel No.4 shot in 12-bore, 76mm cases. And you seldom find them stocked by mainstream retailers anyway.

The tide of public opinion has turned against plastic in the environment. As responsible wildfowlers, we would be wise to ensure that we are not left high and dry on this issue.