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Shoreline Cleanup and Skeets

We reported to duty today for the Shoreline Cleanup at Breuner Marsh. It was not as large a group as you woould probably find at Marina Bay, but it was nice weather, and there was plenty to do. Joining us were Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, East Bay Regional Parks Board Member Whitney Dotson and newly designated Urban Tilth Director Doria Robinson.


The preponderance of trash on the shoreline is plastics foam, bottles, bags and containers. This is not just unsightly, it is a serious environmnetal problem. See Bags Found to Severely Threaten Bay and Trash Seeking Ship Releases Photos and Details from Trip in Pacific.

But one thing I had not noticed before were millions of plastic shotgun sheel waddings, presumably from the nearby Richmond Rod and Gun Club where members shoot skeet out over the water. I did a little research on this, and I found that for years, shotshell wads were simple disks of fiber, felt, or cardboard cut to fit the inside of a shotshell case. A hard, nonflammable wad, sometimes called a nitro wad, was placed over the powder. 

Fiber wads were in universal use through the early 1960s. In 1962, Winchester introduced the Mark-5 polyethylene shot collar, which was a wrapper that surrounded the shot and protected it from abrasion against the walls of the barrel. It was a big step forward in increasing the number of un-deformed pellets that flew straight to the target. The Mark-5 collar was a small strip of plastic, and not as ecologically invasive as are the current all-plastic wads that combine over-powder sealing with an attached protective shot cup. Ecologically, plastic wads take years to decompose, if ever. Fiber wads made of paper and felt dissolve with the weather and disappear in a few weeks.

These non-degradable plastic cups end up in our San Francisco Bay waters and salt marshes by the millions and stay there virtually forever unless they float out to sea and join the sea of plastic in the North Pacific Gyre.

Apparently, there is a solution. In eco-conscious Europe, plastic hulls and wads are frequently banned for both hunting and clay-target shooting, as they are on many of the estates in Great Britain as well. Kent-Gamebore and other overseas ammunition firms routinely load paper-cased, card- and felt-wadded loads for those hunters and shooters. For game shooting in areas grazed by farm stock or wildlife in the UK, biodegradable fiber wads are often preferred.

Shotgun shells with biodegradable wads are available from Poly-Wad, Inc., Republic Metallic Cartridge Company and other manufacturers. 

I would like to ask our friends at the Richmond Rod and Gun Club to switch over to biodegradable wads and help us save the planet.



Trash collectors at Breuner Marsh


Plastic shotgun shell wadding in marsh skeet range.


Plastic shotgun shell wadding picked up on the beach 


Firing over the water at Richmond Rod and Gun Club Trap and

Skeet Range