Today’s disc golf discs come in a variety of colors, shapes and materials, and most are made with some kind of plastic. Synthetic plastic has been around for over a century and has shaped the way we live. However, this amazing invention does come with some baggage. First, most plastic is made from crude oil or other non-renewable resources. And second, it does not easily break down, meaning it will be around for a long, long time.
In this blog we will look at the environmental aspects of disc golf discs and discuss ways to minimize the impact. We’ll look at what some manufacturers are doing to reuse and recycle plastic discs. Plus we will talk about other ways that we can be environmentally conscious as we participate in the sport of disc golf.
Long Live Plastic
If you grabbed your go-to driver and buried it in your backyard, your great-great-great grandchild would be able to dig it up and it would still be mostly intact. It might be more pitted and have a rougher feel, but it won’t have broken down much in that time span. That is just the nature of plastic. If you throw away an old disc, you essentially are burying it, and it will be around for hundreds of years. What other option do you have?
Most discs are made with a blend of plastic types. While this makes them feel awesome in our hand, it becomes problematic if we want to recycle the disc. Products made from a single plastic type come with a recycle logo and include a number that tells you which type of plastic types that product is made from. They can easily be recycled. Multi-type plastics don’t have that luxury. But there are still options for recycling.
Manufacturers saw a couple possible solution to recycling their blemished plastic. First, they sold discs as factory seconds at a discount from their regularly priced discs. Some discs only have minor blemishes but still have the flight characteristics of a new discs. Those discs could be sold for less that retail, keeping the plastic on the market without adding any additional processing.
If discs were in worse shape than factory seconds and not resalable to the public, manufacturers still have an option to use them instead of tossing them in a landfill. They could shred the plastic and use it to make new discs. Since they formulated the plastic, they would know its properties and know what other plastics it would be compatible with. Many different brands offer discs with pre-consumer recycled plastic.
Brands With Eco Friendly Plastics
Innova has its Echo Star line which is made of at least 50% recycled materials.
Dynamic Discs offers discs in recycled plastics such as BioFuzion, BioGold, and Revive.
Latitude 64 reuses their discs in their BioGold and Recycled plastics.
Westside has Revive plastic, and MVP has R2, both of which use blemished plastic to create new discs.
Doomsday Discs has it’s Biohazard plastic which is partially made from recycled material.
The above plastic types are good examples of using existing plastic to make a new disc. Other brands use more eco-friendly plastics to begin with to produce a disc that doesn’t use as much non-renewable resources.
Discs Made from “Environmentally Friendly” Materials
Euro Disc is a German brand that makes ultimate and discs golf discs. They are demonstrating a strong commitment to environmental stewardship. Embracing eco-friendly practices, Eurodisc produces its range of frisbee discs, including Ultimate, Kids, and Mini models, from 100% bio-based organic plastic, derived from renewable resources. This approach ensures that the discs are sustainable and can be recycled through normal household waste systems.
AGL has its hemp blend, which used the amazing renewable resource of hemp to produce some of their discs.
Gateway has its Organic plastic, which uses recycled rubber and a corn-based bio-polymer to produce an amazing feeling plastic. They also off Hemp blend, which combines recycled rubber and hemp. Hemp is a renewable, natural, versatile plant that can be made into many different products.
Although the aforementioned efforts by manufactures help reduce the amount of natural resources used when making the discs we love, most of today’s discs have one issue in common: Their multi-plastic ingredients make them mostly non-recyclable. That is the environmental cost of making disc golf discs with the current plastic choices. However, one company is trying to change that cost.
Trash Panda Disc Golf
I was able to visit with and interview Jesse from Trash Panda Disc Golf several years ago in Colorado. At the time, Jesse had an ambitious goal to make disc golf sustainable. He wanted to make discs out of recycled plastic, and make them recyclable, too. How has he done since then? I reached out to Jesse for an update! Here is what he said:
“Since we chatted last in my garage, we’ve released two molds made from 100% recycled plastic – the Inner Core and the Dune. With the success of those two molds, we’ve diverted 15,000 lbs of plastic from landfills and continue to exceed even our own expectations of what is possible.
“In 2023 we proudly became the first disc golf company to ever achieve B Corp certification – which is a month-long assessment that ensures companies meet the highest ethical and environmental standards.”
In addition to achieving his goal of producing a recyclable disc out of recycled plastic, Jesse and the crew at Trash Panda have set up a great program for recycling discs. Disc golfers can send in their unwanted/damaged/broken discs in exchange for a discount at Trash Panda. Those discs will then be either ground up am made into discs or other plastic products, or they will be donated to youth programs to grow the sport. Either way, the life of the plastic will be extended and will be kept out of the landfill. As of this writing, they have received over 11,500 discs and turned them into discs, minis, and Disc Dots.
What Can You Do?
What you can do to be environmentally conscious?
Buy environmentally friendly plastics – Make an effort to look see what recycled options are available. Many of the recycled plastics have an amazing feel and are still durable. By voting with our wallets, maybe was can get more options in ‘green’ plastics.
Buy used – Premium discs have a long life and we can usually get a used disc much cheaper than new. As an added benefit, used discs are sometimes already broken in. That will give us a seasoned disc immediately, instead of having to play with it for a long time.
Donate your discs – If you can trade discs with other disc golfers, or sell them to a retailer, we can end up with discs that we like or want to throw without the cost of buying new. If those options aren’t available, check out Trash Panda’s recycle program and give your old discs a new home.
There may be many aspects of our life where it is difficult or impossible to make a difference for the planet. Disc golf is not one of those things. Our sport comes with an environmental cost, but the steps we’ve outlined will help make disc golf more sustainable into the future. It always feels good to help with the environment, and if we can be helping while playing disc golf, that is a win-win for everyone.