Environmentally Safe Bullets.

Sunset at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona (photo by Yumacool/Wikimedia).

Sunset at the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona (photo by Yumacool/Wikimedia).

What does it say about your country when the military finally wakes up to just how much they are polluting and poisoning the ground with bullets? When the land itself suffers and dies, and leaves wildlife no refuge? Nothing good, to be sure. Rather than perhaps shooting a whole lot less, the military is looking into seeded, biodegradable training bullets. I can’t say doing this is wrong, but I can barely express just how fucking wrong it is that there is a need for this at all.

At proving grounds and training ranges across the planet, hundreds of thousands of US Army bullets litter the landscape. Difficult to remove, and a groundwater and soil hazard as they corrode, this discarded metal is an environmental concern. In November, the Department of Defense (DoD) posted a call for proposals titled “Biodegradable Composites with Embedded Seeds for Training Ammunition” through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) federal program.

DoD specifically cites “low velocity 40mm grenades; 60mm, 81mm, and 120mm mortars; shoulder launched munitions; 120mm tank rounds; and 155mm artillery rounds” as needing biodegradable substitutes, adding that the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory has “demonstrated bioengineered seeds that can be embedded into the biodegradable composites and that will not germinate until they have been in the ground for several months.”

Bullets that contain seeds might seem like a silly design challenge, but ecological destruction by the military is serious. A 2014 article by Alexander Nazaryan for Newsweek noted that the “US Department of Defense is one of the world’s worst polluters,” with “4,127 installations spread across 19 million acres of American soil,” including over 140 Superfund sites. And this problem of tactical waste extends beyond the military. A 2004 report from Virginia Tech reported that there were “20 million metric tons of lead bullets fired in the United States in the 20th century,” with results including large amounts of lead discovered in trees near shooting ranges. Currently, Providence, Rhode Island, is planning to spend a million dollars to extract lead bullets and other fragments from a police shooting range located a few hundred feet from a reservoir.


Read more about the “Biodegradable Composites with Embedded Seeds for Training Ammunition” call for proposals at SBIR. Proposals are open through February 8.

Hyperallergic has the full story.


  1. says

    Military range areas are a horrible stew of lead dust, it’s pretty much impossible to abate them. I’m sure the military is thinking, “What? At least it’s not depleted uranium like we left all over Iraq…”

  2. says

    Unfortunately, it’s not just the military. In the article, it’s mentioned just how much lead and other metal from bullets is in the States, and in comparison to other countries, well, insanity. A whole lot of proving grounds are ever so conveniently located by or in wildlife refuges, too.

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