There are a number of things to consider when purchasing a new disc: Speed, glide, turn, fade, and whether or not this piece of plastic will prove to be the tipping point that leads to environmental Armageddon.
Okay, so your purchasing experience may not be clouded with apocalyptic thoughts, but factoring the environment into your buying decisions is something more players – and more companies – are starting to do.
MVP Disc Sports, Dynamic Discs, Latitude 64, Innova, and Gateway Disc Sports have all introduced eco-friendly discs to their product lines, and a handful of companies are working to make discs out of discarded plastics. But what is an "eco-friendly disc golf disc" exactly? And do these discs deserve a place in your bag? This article goes over some of the basics of disc golf's more eco-conscious products.
What Is an Eco-Friendly Disc Golf Disc?
An "eco-friendly disc" is one that helps reduce the amount of new plastic used in disc production.
Just about every disc we toss over hills and down tree alleys while enjoying the beautiful outdoors is made of plastic. As disc golf continues its explosive growth so does the demand for this non-biodegradable material that is most commonly made from fossil fuels – substances inextricably linked with environmental degradation and climate change.
Some disc manufacturers have reduced their need for plastic by creating lines made from bioplastics or other environmentally friendly materials. Other companies have started making discs from post-consumer plastic (i.e., garbage). But far and away, the most common eco-friendly method is to manufacture discs with "post-industrial" or "pre-consumer" plastic.
Disc Golf Discs Made From Recycled Pre-Consumer Plastic
Disc golf discs are made by melting down plastic, injecting the plastic into a mold, and then cooling it until it hardens. Latitude 64 put out a video that shows the process (and features some funky drums) in 2019. Check it out:
While the disc making process usually ends with a perfect piece of plastic destined for store shelves – and, later, disc golf baskets – sometimes quality checks reveal small imperfections that make the disc unworthy for general sale. Instead of throwing these imperfect discs into the trash, some disc manufacturers have started to recycle this pre-consumer plastic into new products.
The following companies have all produced disc golf discs by recycling pre-consumer plastic into new discs:
|Disc Golf Brand||Eco-Plastic (Pre-Consumer)|
While these companies have all produced pre-consumer recycled discs at some point, discs in those plastics can be hard to come by as not all of the companies are actively manufacturing these recycled products.
Steve Holloway, the Marketing Manager for MVP – one of the companies that has recently released new recycled discs – told us of two other reasons for the seeming scarcity of these discs. First, players are buying these discs up as soon as they are released. And second, it takes a ton of "imperfect" regular production discs to justify a run of the recycled line.
"When you make discs, invariably you end up with some that aren't of the quality standard to be sold, and this means they have to be scrapped," Holloway said. "Our options with that scrap were always to throw it away or try and find a way to recycle it. Years ago, we made the decision to save all of our scrap as we researched how to effectively recycle it and reuse it. It was absolutely the right answer as new technologies have given us the ability to use these items and convert them into usable materials again…Unless we have enough material on hand to run 1000's of discs, we just save it up until we are able."
When you buy a disc made from pre-consumer recycled plastic, you're supporting a company that is making an effort to limit the amount of plastic that ends up in a landfill instead of a disc golfer's hands. However, these discs are still made from regular plastic that happens to have been used in multiple discs (one faulty, one not). Is there an even greener way to make reliable discs?
Disc Golf Discs Made From Post-Consumer Plastic
A more eco-friendly alternative to making discs from pre-consumer plastic is to create them from post-consumer plastic, like discarded water bottles or plastic bags. While there are a few companies that are making headway in this space, these discs are even harder to find than their pre-consumer counterparts.
Trash Panda and Above Ground Level (AGL) are two companies that have started working on post-consumer plastic recycled discs. AGL, which bills itself as the "greenest disc golf company out there," offers putters, midranges, and drivers that are made from post-consumer recycled goods. Trash Panda, who spent most of 2021 testing and researching different plastics, currently offers minis made from recycled plastic and expects to introduce their first regular recycled disc at some point in 2022.
Jesse Steadman, the founder of Trash Panda, told us that repurposing post-consumer plastic into a playable disc golf disc is a bit of a tricky process as there are thousands of different types of plastic that are all manufactured for a specific purpose. A water bottle, for example, isn't made of the same type of plastic used to make disc golf discs.
"Every single plastic, from your reusable water bottle to your single-use water bottle to your straw to your bottle cap to your pill bottle to your trash can," Steadman said. "Every single type of plastic is engineered for a specific purpose and discs are no different. Discs are engineered to fly reliably."
Are There Disc Golf Discs That Aren't Plastic?
While plastic is far and away the most popular material found in a disc golf disc, it isn't the only option available. Gateway Discs, for example, uses a mixture of recycled rubber and bioplastic (a plastic made from a renewable source like corn) to make their organic line of discs. While these organic discs use less petrol-based plastic in their production process, they, like all of the aforementioned eco-friendly discs, still aren't biodegradable.
Vibram once offered another non-plastic option with its rubber-based discs. Though you can still find their discs today, they stopped production years ago (but they seem to be testing the waters to start up again). Importantly, their discs were not 100% natural rubber, so they also weren't biodegradable.
We found a few biodegradable frisbees on the market, but there doesn't appear to be a biodegradable disc golf disc being made at the moment.
Another Way to Look at Eco-Friendly Discs
The main goal of buying an eco-friendly disc is to limit the amount of plastic that ends up polluting the environment. A few companies have addressed this problem by recycling discs destined for the landfill into new discs. Other companies have attempted to make discs from post-consumer plastic or organic materials.
While filling your bag with these eco-friendly discs is certainly a commendable goal, it isn't the only way to be a more eco-friendly player. The next time you go out to the course, leave it a little cleaner than how you found it. Pick up the trash, recycle the cans, and, if you're able, bang the chains with a more environmentally-conscious piece of plastic.