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 materials’ 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

  • Recognize- when you may have seen ammo and that it is dangerous.
  • Retreat- do not go near, touch, move or disturb it, but carefully leave the area.
  • Report- tell a parent or a teacher and ask them to call 911, or tell a police officer.

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.

In 2011, a crane operator at a scrap metal yard recognized there was a munition in the material he was processing.  The operator immediately retreated from the area and reported what he saw to the state police.  The state police bomb squad closed the scrap yard for 30 minutes while it removed the munitions from the yard and transferred it to an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) unit for disposal.  The crane operator followed the 3Rs protecting his fellow workers and company, with only a minor disruption of the scrap yard's operations.

In 2008, an explosion at a Raleigh scrap-metal recycling plant injured two workers.  Peddlers had sold a load of scrap metal that contained munitions (anti-tank rounds) to the yard.  Plant workers saw the munitions, which were mixed with a batch of scrap metal being processed for recycling, but did not recognize the danger posed.  Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) personnel from Fort Bragg recovered 29 munitions mixed with bales of scrap metal.  The munitions that EOD recovered included three 90 mm artillery rounds and anti-tank rockets. Police periodically closed roads and evacuated nearby residences during a two-week period that the military inspected and detonated munitions encountered in the scrap yard.  Although the workers saw the munitions, they failed to recognize the danger posed.