Science Buzz

Biodegradable bullets that sprout plants

To reduce the hazardous impact spent bullets have on the environment, the U.S. Army is planning to use biodegradable bullets loaded with special seeds that will grow into environmentally beneficial plants.

The U.S. military fires thousands of rounds during training, that tend to be abandoned because cleaning them up is either impractical or in the case of rounds that get buried several feet underground, impossible. But these rounds contain components that can take “hundreds of years” to biodegrade. The shells, containing metal and other chemicals, can also rust and pollute soil and groundwater.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already tested a biodegradable bullet impregnated with seeds that will survive the initial blast and searing velocities, and are bioengineered to germinate only after they have been in the ground for several months. The plants that grow from the seeds could also help remove soil contaminants or feed local wildlife.