Arms company on target for eco-friendly bullets

British weapons manufacturer BAE Systems is working on lead-free bullets and a range of other environmentally friendly armaments in an effort to reduce battlefield contamination and health risks for the armed forces.

A spokesperson for the company told edie it was in response to a request from the MoD to produce less environmentally hazardous weaponry and also in keeping with BAE’s corporate social responsibility guidelines.

“There are no lead-free bullets as yet although it is a project we’re working on. What we do have at the moment are reduced toxicity bullets,” she said.

“We’re also working on insensitive munitions which reduce the danger of handling and storage.”

The company also has an environmental services wing which helps with the remediation of contaminated land where unexploded munitions may be present and expects to be involved in preparation for the flurry of construction in East London in the run up to the Olympics, as the area was heavily bombed during the Blitz.

Other environmental work include a kind of modern day transformation of weapons into ploughshares, with plans to convert unused munitions into fertiliser so they can be safely disposed of on agricultural land rather than being detonated and soundproofing of military vehicles to protect those using them from long-term hearing damage.

Asked if she saw any contradiction in a company which produces weapons of war trying to keep the environment healthy, the spokesperson said: “No, absolutely not. We see it as our responsibility as a company and take seriously anything we can do to act in a more environmentally friendly manner.

“The manufacture of our products has a very low impact compared with other industries but where we can do things like change the kind of materials we use, we will consider it.

“By reducing any toxicity in our munitions where possible we can reduce the impact…not only for the working environment for our employees, but the environmental damage in the long term.”

Those morally opposed to war have questioned the company’s actions, however, refusing to accept that weapons and environmental credibilty can go hand in hand.

Symon Hill, a spokesman for the Campaign Against the Arms Trade, told edie he believed the plans were little more than a greenwash.

“I don’t think it’s possible for a weapon to be environmentally friendly,” he said.

“To say that something that is designed to cause as much damage as possible shouldn’t harm the environment is supremely illogical.

“Historically weapons have worked by contaminating the land and water as well as just killing somebody.

“The real way you can reduce the damage is by not selling weapons to governments that could be spending their huge arms budgets on environmental protection.”

The BAE spokesman refused his claim that this was a greenwash, saying the company had not actively publicised its work and was simply responding to the health and safety needs of its employees and the demands of its customers, in this case the MoD.

“We recognise that other people will have other opinions and respect their right to have these opinions,” she said.

“But as a large company employing over 90,000 people globally, we believe that it is our responsibility to take steps to protect the environment where we can.”

Sam Bond

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