U.S. Army: Calling All Biodegradable Bullet Builders


Nadean Hurtado

Ever wanted to try something new to help save the environment but never known how to go about doing it? The Department of Defense is looking for somebody to do something along those lines right now. Biodegradable bullets are the newest idea of the U.S. Army, and they still haven’t found the perfect solution in creating these bullets. That’s where budding scientists come into the picture.

Every day, around the world “hundreds of thousands of spent shells litter proving grounds,” according to an article by Tracy Staedter, a writer at science and tech news site Seeker. These shells can’t be efficiently cleaned up so they are left on the ground. In turn, the bullets lose metal and chemicals that contaminate the soil. The groundwater can also be contaminated by the shells and the casings, as they take over a century to disintegrate.

One of the chemicals that some bullets contain is lead because it’s cheap and it gives the bullets a good density. It is chemicals such as this that leak into water sources and make them undrinkable. The reason lead is particularly bad for people is that, depending on the amount a person gets into the body, it can cause everything from constipation and mood swings to a lower IQ and stunted growth.

What is worse is that, according to the EPA, there is no authority to “certify or approve ranges, range design, and lead management.” This means that no range, including the U.S. Army’s and civilian ones, are restricted in how much lead they put into the earth.

The biodegradable bullets will not only be better for the soil, but they will also grow plants after they have been used. Ideas such as biodegradable plastics are being tested, as well as a multitude of other ideas. The Army is willing to help fund think tanks in order to create these sprouting bullets.

“The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) 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,” according to America’s Seed Fund.

The plants, being a natural filter, are supposed to help take away some of the contaminants that are already inside of the soil. These bullets will not only help stop the continued environmental problems of ammunition, but they will also help to fix the damage of the past too.

The acceptance of proposals began on Nov. 30 and they must be turned in by Feb. 8 to get picked as one of the final contractors. The chosen contractors will then create bullets ranging from 40mm to 120mm in size. In total, this will be the first in “a three-phase process,” according to Staedter. The second phase is where the bullets are to be manufactured and the last phase is when the bullets are to actually be used during training.

Now is the chance to create something that will do good for the world in a large way.