The US Army wants biodegradable bullets that grow plants

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Every year armies around the world use millions of rounds of ammunition during training exercises but these can cause a trail of environmental devastation which takes generations to recover from, the US Army want to create a new legacy.

 

Not only are bullets a physical hazard, but they’re an environmental hazard, too. At US Army training facilities around the world, hundreds of thousands of spent shells litter proving grounds. Because there is no efficient way to clean up the shells, they’re left where they fall. But that’s a problem. The shells, which contain metal and other chemicals, can rust and pollute soils and groundwater , and now the US DoD wants to do something about it so they’re soliciting proposals for biodegradable bullets “loaded with specialised seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants that eliminate ammunition debris and contaminants.”

 

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The materials best suited for these bullets could include the same biodegradable plastics used to make water bottles or plastic containers, or it could end up being some different material altogether.

According to the request for proposal, the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory has already developed and tested seeds that can be embedded into a biodegradable composite. They’ve been bioengineered to germinate only after they’ve been in the ground for several months.

The proposals are being solicited until February 8, after which time, the chosen contractors will produce the biodegradable bullets as part of a three phase process. In Phase 1, the contractor will focus on making 40 mm to 120 mm training rounds, Phase 2 includes developing a prototype and the means to manufacture it and Phase 3 has the biodegradable round being deployed and used at the Army training facilities.

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