Artillery shells and other ammunition have for centuries been made out of lead and other heavy metals. Now, the U.S. Army is trying to green its weapons stock, seeking proposals for biodegradable training shells made from materials like seeds that will leave behind not pollution, but plants.
According to a Department of Defense funding solicitation, the U.S. Army fires hundreds of thousands of mortar, tank, and artillery shells every year. Yet these spent projectiles are rarely retrieved. As these explosive rounds slowly corrode, they leach toxins such as lead into soil and water at training facilities and in war zones. Army facilities make up almost 70 percent of the U.S.’s most polluted locations, according to CNN. Cleaning up spent ammunition and other pollutants from U.S. military sites across the globe is estimated to cost $16 billion to $165 billion, the Christian Science Monitor reported.
With that price tag in mind, the Army is seeking proposals for developing training ammunition for explosive shells that are “loaded with specialized seeds to grow environmentally beneficial plants” months after they are fired.