Environmentally Friendly Ammunition

With the laws on lead shot tightening around the globe it makes sense that a growing number of companies are offering a lead free alternative so that hunters can continue to hunt without breaking the law. As well as lead being replaced, other parts of a cartridge, such as the old plastic wads are also being switched for biodegradable substitutes. 

The rules on lead shot differ depending on where you live in the world. For example, lead shot is already totally banned in The Netherlands and the Flemish areas of Belgium. In the UK lead will be banned in five years and phased out during that period. Some lead shot bans have been in place for almost 20 years, with New Zealand banning lead use in 12-bore ammunition in the early 2000s.

FACE – the voice for European hunters and a powerful lobbyer within the European Union – is clear on its stance regarding lead shot.

“Over the last few years lead in ammunition has once again become a topical issue. FACE and its members remain committed to phasing out the use of lead-shot in wetlands and at our General Assembly of March 2010 we reaffirmed this position. However, concerns over lead in ammunition now encompass a broader range of issues, including potential effects on human health and on wildlife.

These concerns require close attention and in cases where they prove to be significant, they will require that mitigating actions are taken. Lead, like many other substances in daily use, is toxic but the use of lead in ammunition is an extremely complex issue, which requires due attention to establish actual risks and the necessary solutions to minimise them. FACE works closely with its Members in exchanging relevant information on the use of lead in ammunition in order to facilitate a better understanding of this complex issue.

We also work as part of the CIC-coordinated Hunting Ammunition Platform, which includes the ammunition industry, and provides global insight into this issue.”

What is clear is lead won’t be around for too much longer and sustainable, quality alternatives will have to be used.

The alternatives

Away from lead there are many replacements such as steel, bismuth and tungsten-based shots, which are all available in a variety of different calibres and shot sizes.

Manufacturers have developed a range of different cartridges exploiting diverse materials.

A material that is close to lead in terms of density is Bismuth, it also produces very comparable results. Because it is softer than steel, it can be used with simple fibre wads for field use. It’s been used for many years for wetland shooting and is very effective, however bumping up your shot size when using this material is suggested. 

Tungsten as a metal that is denser than lead and very hard. Powdered and mixed with polymers (plastics), or alloyed with iron, it can be formed into shot that behaves comparably to lead. It is now available with a bio-degradable shot cup. Again, it’s been used effectively for many years but is also expensive and in its polymer form, does add slight quantities of plastic to the environment.

Steel is cheap and widely obtainable. It lacks the density of lead and is almost as hard as the barrels, but the manufacturers have got around those issues with technology of their own. First, steel shot cartridges use cup wads to prevent the shot from touching the barrel walls. These have traditionally been made from hard plastics but now environmentally friendly fibre or water-soluble cups are offered and to make up for the lower density, size and velocity can be changed.

Green Cycles Solves Plastic Wad Issue

Green Cycles, the only Spanish company specializing in the manufacture of water-soluble, biodegradable, compostable and non-toxic products, has developed the first cartridge wads for sport shooting that puts an end to one of the problems caused by the practice of this activity - environmental pollution.

The unique water-soluble, biodegradable and compostable cartridge wads for sport shooting come with a European Certification.

  • The Valencia-based company, which holds the patent for the manufacture of water-soluble wads for ecological cartridge, ends the problem of environmental pollution caused by conventional hunting cartridge wads left in the environment.   
  • For many applications, the GreenCycles material, from which cartridge wads for sport shooting are made, presents itself as an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional plastic, as it has all the benefits and none of the drawbacks.
  • Ecological and technological values make Green Cycles a clear example of circular economy and sustainable industry, as they make the life cycle of the products greener. Once their purpose has been fulfilled, they will end up as water, CO2, mineral salts and natural fertilizer for the environment.

Under the name of Green Shoot, Green Cycles holds the patent for the manufacture of these 100 per cent water-soluble, biodegradable and compostable wads, and they are the only example with European certification. 

Once its purpose has been fulfilled, due to the action of rain and environmental humidity, Green Cycles cartridge wads for sport shooting dissolve and integrate into the environment, contributing positively to ecosystems, due to the fact that they turn into biomass, water and mineral salts, because of their biodegradable nature. The presence of humidity or water accelerates this process.

As Elena Moreno, CEO of Green Cycles, says, "Green Cycles' cartridge wads for sport shooting are the only wads that meet the requirements to be qualified as biodegradable, compostable and water-soluble, and are therefore the only wads that have European certification, although there are other brands that are sold as such without it. There is no other wad on the market that biodegrades completely into the soil in a matter of days, in water in a few minutes, and that turns into fertilizer in less than two months, as happens with Green Cycles’ wads". 

Moreno also highlights the benefits of its use for the protection of the environment. She continued: "We all know the negative consequences that conventional plastic has for our environment, due to the waste it generates. That is why Green Cycles offers sustainable alternatives that contribute to combating this serious global problem".

Marine Biodegradability Certificate Approved

GreenCycles material is one of the few materials in the world to have the marine biodegradability certificate by the OWS - guaranteeing not only solubility or disintegration, but also complete biodegradation in the marine environment with no toxicity.

Being a company that is increasingly committed to protecting the environment, Green Cycles' cartridge wads for sport shooting are experiencing great success in the sector and among shotgun hunters and shooters.

Public organizations are also increasingly aware of the need to implement measures to help reduce waste generation. In the Balearic Islands, for example, the use of water-soluble wads is already mandatory in all shooting ranges.

Regarding the international market, these wads are already present in countries such as Denmark, Italy, The Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In Denmark, for example, their use is being actively promoted and regulated, even banning the use of traditional plastic wads.

In addition to cartridge wads for sport shooting, Green Cycles offers a wide range of products, developed using different manufacturing methods, such as film, water-soluble bags with numerous applications (laundry bags, commercial bags, etc.); Pyrotechnic shelters, golf balls, cosmetic jars and more.

About Green Cycles

Based in Rafelbunyol (Valencia), Green Cycles has spent more than 16 years developing numerous projects for the manufacture of smart products that are water-soluble, biodegradable and compostable. To do this, it has transformed industrial processes and manufacturing methods, improving the life cycle of the product resulting from its application.

Green Cycles S.L. began operating in 2006 in collaboration with the Center for Industrial Technological Development (CTDI) and the Valencian Institute of Finance (IVF) to produce water-soluble and biodegradable materials. That same year the company won the NOVA award for business innovation. Green Cycles continues collaborating with other industries and organizations in various co-creation projects, with the purpose of discovering new smart solutions to help consumers and the environment alike. Its production plant is located in Spain, from where it supplies Europe, the United States and Latin America.


  • Biodegradable according to UNE-EN-ISO 14851-2019
  • Compostable according to EN-13432/ASTM6400

-                Non-toxic material according to UNE-EN-ISO 7346-1-1998 and UNE-EN-ISO 6341-2013

The perfect combination of ecology and technology is Green Cycles hallmark. For this reason, throughout this time, the company has collaborated with other companies and organizations in various co-creation projects, with the aim of discovering new intelligent applications to help industries, consumers and, of course, the protection of nature.