The following is a guest post by Mike Zapantis. Mike talks about how we can reduce the environmental impact of paintball and clean up our local parks.

Face it.  Paintball is by far the dirtiest sport in existence, next to, of course, professional dumpster diving.  A player’s dedication to the sport is most often determined by how much mold is growing on his arm pads, and how many flies he attracts at the start box.  Some of the most glorious tournament wins are those in the worst weather conditions possible, where we are rolling around in the mud like sows after lunchtime.  On top of that, the footprint paintball leaves on the immediate earth surrounding it is unmistakable, so much so that tournament venues that allow such destruction to their property are hard to come by, and when they are, they are the most fickle landlords.  One cannot deny the amount of trash that is the aftermath of paintball.  Between batteries, paintball packaging, water bottles, and the like, paintball is epitomized by littering.  After all, the sport we love so dearly revolves around spraying 12.5 balls per second’s worth of biodegradable filth into the air and onto the ground.  So why can’t we clean up after ourselves?  It has been common knowledge for quite some time now that the current global economic and waste management condition is destroying the planet.  Other industries have caught on to the concept of “going green,” for more than just environmental reasons.  Why hasn’t the paintball industry caught up to this concept?  Somebody needs to be held accountable for reducing the carbon footprint paintball has on the planet.  And that somebody is everyone.  Here are some suggestions I have for the paintball world that we all should take into consideration.

 

Paintball Park/Venue Littering: Would you throw batteries on the ground in your backyard?  Would you chuck a banana peel on your bed?  Then why would you do so at your local paintball field, or even worse, an out-of-industry venue (Assuming that you hopefully answered “no” to the above questions.)?  This is holding players directly responsible for their actions, but also offering up some solutions for teams, players, and field owners alike.  Field owners should provide plenty of garbage containers near the parking and pitting areas, and players should be mindful to place any rubbish into those containers.  Field Staff should clear out garbage bins regularly to prevent overflow.  Paint boxes should be broken down by players and placed NEXT to these garbage bins, NOT INSIDE.  One should be mindful of silica gel packets.  Not only are they not compostable, but they are toxic to anything that might ingest them.  Make sure you toss them in the trash when you are loading up your pods.

Batteries are not biodegradable, and are, in fact, extremely toxic.  While it is much better to throw your old loader and marker batteries in the garbage as opposed to on the ground, there is an even greener solution.  There are battery recycling centers all over America, where you can drop off all your old batteries so that they can be disposed of properly.  Examples of such places are Whole Foods, Staples, and Radioshack.  Have your team designate a responsible teammate to collect all used batteries from the end of practice and dispose of them properly.  Field owners should provide battery-specific collection bins, and dispose of them properly as well (4).

 

Rechargeable Batteries: Why have rechargeable batteries not yet become standard features on all high and mid-range equipment?  I know that attempts have been made in the past to incorporate this idea to paintball, with limited success.  I know that not including rechargeable batteries shifts the some of the unit cost of each item over to the consumer, but I feel that it is the paintball equipment manufacturer’s ethical responsibility to provide a green approach to their products.  At the very least offer a rechargeable battery option for your high end equipment.

Paintball Packaging: This is where the responsibility shifts to the paintball manufacturers, and this call should be taken quite seriously.  It has been the norm in tournament paintball for some time now that teams and players shoot a lot of paintballs.  It is typical for one X-Ball or 7-man team to shoot over 10 cases of paint per one day of practice, and for these same teams to shoot 20-40 cases of paint during the prelims of a national tournament.  Paintball packaging provides protection of its precious cargo similar to that of a tank, with plenty of cardboard, plastic, and silica gel packets to ensure that each and every paintball makes it to your loader scuff-free.  With that said, there are plenty of ways to make paintball packaging less harmful to the environment.

The first and most obvious solution is to use packaging that is more mindful to the environment.  Using cardboard that is from certified, sustainable sources is a great option that trumps recycled cardboard (recycling often uses more energy, thus resulting in more pollutants than what would occur if you just threw it away)(2).  Also, in an approach outlined by the Cradle to Cradle concept (1), paintball manufacturers can offer a program to recycle used paintball packaging.  Paintball fields and tournament series alike would, under this program, be able to send back broken down and intact boxes so that they can be refilled with fresh paint.  Another key element to paintball packaging is the plastic bags that the paintballs are kept airtight in.  Industry leaders should switch over to biodegradable versions of the same bagging, so that even when that renegade empty bag gets blown away in the wind, one can be assured that it is not going to sit around in the woods for the next 10 years (3).

The second solution, which might seem a bit more revolutionary, is to package tournament paint in greater quantities.  Can somebody please explain to me why are we still packaging paint in 2000 round increments?  At the very least, tournament grade batches should be packaged in 4000-5000 round increments, since most players carry on the average 5 man line carry 700 rounds.  This would not only reduce the environmental footprint paintball has, but it can also financially benefit the companies producing paintballs through reduced packaging costs.

 

These modest proposals are only the tip of the iceberg.  There are plenty of other ideas and solutions that can be implemented towards “green” paintball.  With all of the talented and bright minds we have in this sport, I am sure that we can work together to figure out what is the best course of action.  The future of our planet, and our sport, rely on people coming together and changing for the better.  Post your ideas below!

Resources:

  1. Cradle to Cradle: http://www.mbdc.com/http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle_to_cradle.htm
  2. Forest Stewardship Council: http://www.fsc.org/
  3. Friendly Bags:  http://www.friendlybags.com/
  4. Environment, Health and Safety Online: http://www.ehso.com

-Michael Zapantis

 

Editor: What are your thoughts on making paintball more environmentally friendly? What steps do you take to help clean or reduce the clutter at your local paintball park?