A rigorous inspection process, proper documentation and a formal offer for sale are key to ensuring munitions debris, range-related debris and other materials do not pose an explosive hazard to military personnel or the public.  The military goes to great lengths to ensure that material potentially presenting an explosive hazard (often referred to as MPPEH) is not released to the public.  Purchasing recyclable munitions-related materials directly from the Department of Defense’s Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) provides buyers confidence the material is safe to process.

Munitions-related materials regardless of source (e.g., from a military munitions operating facility or an operational range) go through a formal process that normally includes at least two independent inspections or processing with a Department of Defense Explosives Safety Board-approved method.  The military developed this process to ensure only material documented as safe is released to the public, which includes the recycling industry.

Although the military works hard to ensure munitions-related materials to be released from Department of Defense control is safe, peddlers (scrappers) routinely trespass on Department of Defense operational ranges to collect metal.  The metal collected often includes unexploded ordnance and other munitions, to sell to recyclers. Peddlers sell this metal, which may contain live munitions, to recyclers.

Too frequently, metal sold by peddlers is found, after an explosive incident, to contain live munitions (e.g., unexploded ordnance).  The scrap recycling industry can protect its workers and business assets by purchasing munitions-related materials from an authorized Department of Defense source and ensuring that such material has been documented as safe.  Material documented as safe will not have un-vented cavities and should be accompanied by paperwork documenting the materialsโ€™ explosives safety status.

Protect your business and workers by knowing the source of the metals purchased, inspecting it prior to purchase and during processing.  If you know or suspect the metals purchased may contain munition or you suspect you may have encountered a munition, follow the 3Rs of Explosives Safety:

  • Recognize – when you may have encountered a munition and that munitions are dangerous.
  • Retreat – cease operations in the area, do not approach, touch, move or disturb it, but carefully leave the area.
  • Report – call 911 and advise the police of what you saw and where you saw it.

For more detailed information on the inspection processes and how workers and the public can be protected, read the 3Rs Explosives Safety Guide for the Recycling Industry.

3Rs of Explosives Safety

Recycling Incidents

In 2013, two civilians (peddlers or scrappers) illegally collecting metal on an operational range in Texas were seriously injured when a grenade they had picked up exploded.  These trespassers failed to recognize the danger of ignoring warning signs and entering an operational range where munitions, including unexploded ordnance or UXO, of different types are present and of collecting metals, including munitions, for sale.  

As a result of this incident, military police and federal law enforcement agencies subsequently visited 90 local scrap recyclers and identified four yards that had purchased munitions from peddlers.  A military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team worked with law enforcement to recover and destroy numerous munitions and a significant amount of munitions debris from these yards.  Law enforcement had to close portions of these yards for an extended time while Explosive Ordnance Disposal team searched the scrap yard and recovered the munitions and munitions debris present.

The failure of these two individuals to recognize the danger of trespassing on an operational range and collecting scrap metal, which included munitions, resulted in their being seriously injured.  In addition, these individuals may now face criminal charges for trespassing and theft.  Failure of the recycling yards to recognize the hazards posed by the metals the peddlers brought to the yard placed their workers and the public at risk,  Additionally, it disrupted the scrap yards normal business.