Are Paintballs Bad for the Environment? Here Are the Facts

Paintball is a high-intensity sport that is played by many participants at one time and for long periods. A full day of paintballing with your friends can lead to quite the mess of paintballs left scattered around the course. This has no doubt left many people to wonder if paintballs are bad for the environment.

Paintballs are not bad for the environment. Paintballs are made from an organic gelatin shell, typically derived from pigskin, and are filled with a mixture of mineral oil, food coloring, and ethylene glycol. Paintballs are water-soluble, biodegradable, non-toxic, and environmentally friendly.

In this article, we will be exploring what paintballs are made of, and the answer may surprise you. We will also be going over the different types of paintballs and where to buy them. By the conclusion of this article, you will have no doubt about the eco-friendliness of paintballs.

In a hurry? These paintballs available on Amazon are great paintballs if you are looking for a reasonable price and good quality paintballs.

What Are Paintballs Made Of?

If you were to ask a person who is unfamiliar with the sport of paintball what the paintballs are made of, they are likely to simply answer “paint.” While this may seem an obvious and self-evident reply, it is incorrect.

To properly understand paintballs’ environmental friendliness, it is important to first understand what they are made of and how the paint they contain fundamentally differs from conventional paint.

The purpose of this section is to dispel the uninformed misconception that paintballs are filled with normal paint and show what they are made up of in reality.

The difference between the two is stark despite them both sharing the same name. 

We will now show that paintballs have nothing whatsoever to do with interior home paint.

Video: How Paintballs Are Made

Traditional Paint Composition

As we commonly refer to it, traditional paint is made from a mixture of chemicals, pigments, and solvents. The solvent in conventional paint mixtures is either water or oil, the pigments are soluble powders that give the paint its color, and then latex, binder, or resin is added to complete the concoction. 

Older paint mixtures, which are no longer in production, used to feature extremely harmful ingredients, most notably lead. In 1978, lead paint was federally outlawed, but before this time, it was widely used in homes and can still be found in many older properties. 

According to WebMD medical reference, lead paint is the number one cause of lead poisoning.

Prolonged exposure to lead has been shown to lead to liver problems, memory retention inhibition, headaches, developmental disorders in children, central nervous system ailments, and many other similar medical issues.

Since the days of the past, paint has become much safer, the safety provisions have become more stringent, and paint has become less environmentally detrimental. 

However, while eco-friendly paints do exist, the typical paint most commonly found in homes is not entirely environmentally friendly and should be disposed of safely and controlled.

If you are interested in learning more about the 8 best eco-friendly paints for use in your home, follow this link to The Good Trade and find out all about it.

Paintball Formulation

Now that we have developed an understanding of traditional paint and its formulation, we can now explore paintballs, how they are made, and how they differ.

The creation of a paintball is brilliant and complex.

Paintballs must be strong and durable enough to withstand being shot out of a gun at 250+ feet per second but must also be able to break apart upon impact.

Because paintballs are commonly designed to be shot at other people during play, they must also be non-toxic, unharmful to the skin and eyes, and easy to wash out of clothes.

Paintballs are made with a gelatin exterior shell that is derived from organic materials, such as pigskin. 

Paintballs are squishy and malleable and are also very sensitive to the environment’s temperature and humidity, which can cause them to swell, shrink, and become dimpled and misshapen.

Not surprisingly, paintballs do have an expiry date, and if you wonder if you can use old paintballs, then read this article.

The inner filling of standard paintballs consists of food coloring, mineral oils, calcium, and ethylene glycol. 

Contrary to common assumption and what the name implies, there is nothing that can truly be called paint inside a paintball.

Interestingly enough, paintballs are technically edible, although it is highly advised that you do not be so bold as to test this out.

Video: 2010 Paintball Eating Contest

Different Types of Paintballs

Paintballs come in various types and forms.

For starters, paintballs come in a wide variety of different colors. Colorful options can be great for uniformity when engaging in team competitions. Specialty colors are even available for purchase, such as glow in the dark paint, adding a unique element to their appeal.

Paintballs are also available in different sizes, which range from .43 to .71 caliber. Not all paintball guns have the same size barrel, so different caliber paintballs will be needed to accommodate their specific size. The majority of paintballs are .68 caliber. This is the most popular and commonly used size.

The type of paintball most often found on courses is known as recreational paint. Recreational paintballs are, as the name implies, general-purpose paintballs that are used for recreational usage. 

Recreational paintballs are tough and reliable, but they are known for not always breaking upon impact. Sometimes, despite accurately hitting their target, recreational paintballs will remain intact.

More expensive and high-quality paintballs also exist and are referred to as professional or tournament paintballs. Tournament paintballs tend to be more accurate and consistent, but they are generally reserved for the upper echelon of competition due to their price.

Lastly, reusable paintballs are also available. Reusable paintballs are not nearly as common and drastically differ in their speed and propulsion. For this reason, reusable paintballs are not used in matches where conventional paintballs are present.

Video: Reusable Paintballs accuracy test

How Environmentally Friendly Are Paintballs?

With what we now know about how paintballs are made, we can finally conclude whether or not they are safe for the environment.

There is nothing in the makeup of a typical paintball that is inorganic. 

Because the base of paintballs is mineral oil, they are highly water-soluble, and the gelatin shells are biodegradable. Paintballs are also completely non-toxic, so you do not need to fear coming into contact with them.

To clean up the paintball mess left after a game, the best way is to use a water hose and simply spray the paint down. Another way to clean up is to wipe it up with an old towel or cloth.

However, even if you were to leave paint on the course and not bother to clean it up, it will still degrade and disappear on its own eventually without causing any stress to the natural environment.

Where To Buy Paintballs

When it comes to buying paintballs, there are many suppliers, and all differ slightly in their product design.

Seasoned players will likely prefer a particular brand, color, and caliber. Still, if you are new to the sport and have not yet had enough experience to differentiate between paint, Valken Infinity .68 Cal balls are a great place to start.

Valken paintballs come in packs of 2,000 and are very reputable and reliable. Their range of color options, combined with their reliability and low price, make Valken the industry standard for paintballs.


In this article, we sought to determine whether or not paintballs were bad for the environment.

We began by showing that the paint in paintballs is completely different from typical house paint. Paintballs are not filled with paint at all.

Paintballs are filled with a mixture of mineral oil, food coloring, and ethylene glycol and encased by a gelatin film, usually made from pigskin.

Paintballs are entirely safe for the environment and human contact because of the organic nature of their design and makeup.