Scandal of hundreds and thousands littering British countryside
On any given day, there are hundreds and thousands of spent shotgun cartridges and associated debris littering the British countryside.
That’s the finding of a national waste and recycling company that says that lazy country sports enthusiasts routinely fail to clear up after themselves following a day’s shooting.
According to the UKs waste management agency BusinessWaste.co.uk, continued enthusiasm for both clay shooting and licensed hunting means that this unwelcome litter builds up day-by-day and week-on-week.
“It’s no exaggeration to say there are tens of thousands of used cartridges littering our countryside,” says BusinessWaste.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, and they cause far more damage that you might think.”
“And then there’s the lesser-known but more damaging peril of shotgun shell wadding which is even less likely to be cleared up,” he says.
While many farmers and country sportsmen clear up their debris after a shoot, there is still a solid hardcore who do not, leaving their spent cartridges littering fields and hillsides.
“It’s ironic that people see themselves as country types, but fail to even follow the basics of the Countryside Code,” Hall says angrily.
In fact, the latest version of the code says “leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home” right at the very top of the document, a statement that many people seem to forget.
What are shotgun cartridges made of?
- While shotgun pellets are now (mercifully) lead free, the average shotgun shell is made from a metal base plate and a plastic sleeve, all of which is ejected after firing.
- The “brass” part of the shell is usually steel, which rusts.
- Wadding which separates the pellets from the charge can be either plastic or fibre. Fibre wadding is more eco-friendly.
- The plastic case is generally not biodegradable, meaning they could lie in a field for years, often containing chemical residue left over from the explosive charge
How can shooters be greener?
The obvious solution, says BusinessWaste.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall is for country sports enthusiasts to take their used cartridges away with them.
That would remove thousands of cases from the countryside’s ecosystem.
But there are also moves within the shooting community to make the cartridges themselves greener.
“The wadding actually is the biggest problem when it comes to litter-picking a shooting site,” says Hall, “And a day-long shoot means there are hundreds of wads of plastic blown to the four winds.”
“It doesn’t matter how diligently you clean up your cartridges if you’re still leaving plastic wadding all over the place.”
That means moves toward biodegradable wadding can only be welcomed, meaning that the unnecessary littering from country sports could be slashed.
BusinessWaste.co.uk says they want to encourage manufacturers who make cartridges with water-soluble components.
“That means that clay shooters can go about their sport knowing that they are being as green as possible, and that can only be good for the reputation of country sports,” says Hall.
“Shooters – you can still shoot, but your target is to be green.”
Jenny has been reporting on small business issues since 2001 where she held a number of freelance positions across the leading SME publications in the UK. Specialist subjects included SME financing and tax.