US Army wants biodegradable bullets which transform into plants

The military wants to begin cleaning up after operations and to stop leaving such a stain on the environment.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

Firearms are an accepted part of modern warfare and military operations, but after the job is done, the environment suffers.

Not only do spent shells and casings litter the landscape, but they can also prove to be a hazard to local wildlife -- not to mention the impact that chemical residues, such as bullet metals and rust, can have on future plant growth and sustainability.

The US military recognizes that this is a problem and is now asking for proposals to mitigate the issue through biodegradable bullets and ways to seed growth as operations in the field continue.

As reported by Seeker, this week the US Department of Justice (DoJ) sent out a public request for proposals to "develop biodegradable training ammunition loaded with specialized seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants that eliminate ammunition debris and contaminants."

Starting off with training rounds, of which hundreds of thousands are manufactured and consumed by the US Army alone, the military is asking for more eco-friendly alternatives to low-velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars, shoulder-launched munitions, 120mm tank rounds, and 155mm artillery rounds.

All of these rounds are used at training grounds and other locations worldwide. The materials currently used to create this ammo takes hundreds of years to degrade. The US Army says it is difficult to clean up after and so spent cartridges are simply left, creating the risk of ground and water contamination.

Instead, the military wants to use biodegradable materials to replace current training rounds. The US agency says that inspiration could be found in the materials already used for biodegradable plastic bottles -- or completely different composites.

According to the proposal, the US Army Corps of Engineers' Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) has already demonstrated ways that "bioengineered" seeds could be embedded into the biodegradable composites of such weaponry, where they would not begin germinating until several months later -- once bullet degradation begins.

"This effort will make use of seeds to grow environmentally friendly plants that remove soil contaminants and consume the biodegradable components developed under this project," the project states. "Animals should be able to consume the plants without any ill effects."

This may not have any effect on today's active military grounds where conflict is ongoing, but if even training rounds can be made to have no detrimental impact on the environment, it is a start.

Proposals are being accepted until February 8.

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