Destroying Body Armor to NIJ Standards

If you’re a member of a military or police organization, then body armor may be a part of your daily apparel. While we think of bulletproof vests and other ballistics materials as protective, they can turn into a danger if they fall into the wrong hands. That’s why it’s crucial to properly dispose of body armor when it expires or when it has been damaged — otherwise, it may make its way into the hands of criminals through undocumented sales. For this reason, the National Institute of Justice (NIJ) has created standards which outline best practices for body armor destruction. Let’s take a closer look at the NIJ, their standards for body armor disposal, and best practices for the secure destruction of ballistics materials.

What Is the NIJ?

The NIJ is a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, and this branch creates standards which police and military agencies can follow in order to reduce crime while bolstering the justice system. As such, the NIJ has created a number of standards surrounding body armor, including standards that outline how body armor should be responsibly destroyed if it has reached the end of its service life, or if it has been damaged while in service (for example, if the material has been shot, stabbed, or improperly stored). Below, we’ll delve deeper into the NIJ’s standards surrounding body armor disposal.

NIJ Body Armor Disposal Standards

The NIJ specifically addresses the importance of proper ballistics material disposal for both police and military agencies. In their Guide to Body Armor, the NIJ outlines the following guidelines for both safe destruction and proper documentation throughout the process:

“When body armor is no longer serviceable, the agency must dispose of it in a responsible manner that should also prevent illicit use. If armor is disposed of in a landfill, unauthorized parties may obtain the armors; also, materials may not be biodegradable. Many materials used in manufacturing body armor are either fire retardant or inherently fireproof, so they cannot be incinerated. Certain material suppliers have ongoing recycling programs for out-of-service armor. Some body armor companies offer a “take-back” disposal. The agency should contact its armor supplier/manufacturer to see if quotes are provided for such services. You may also contact the NIJ CTP regarding possibly donating the armor for research purposes. Refer to the resource list in Appendix B for NIJ CTP contact information. When an agency disposes of unserviceable armors, it should require and obtain a record of disposition from the organization used to dispose of the armor. At a minimum, the disposition should list the armor by serial number, disposal method and disposal date. This chain of custody document should be retained by both the agency and the disposing company as a formal record of disposition.”

In short, body armor shouldn’t end up in a landfill or tossed out like traditional garbage, since it can end up in the wrong hands, and it doesn’t easily biodegrade in landfills. Instead, it should be destroyed through a proper facility, and the transactions should be documented. Here at Fiber Brokers, we specialize in obtaining and destroying ballistics materials, as well as recycling these materials after they have been thoroughly dismantled — plus, we document all transactions along the way. Below, we’ve outlined our process in greater detail.

Our Process

After an agency has reached out to us, we’ll begin the process by having the agency complete an Enrollment, Receipt, and Destruction (ERD) Request form for all body armor materials. From there, the items may be shipped via common carriers (like Fed-Ex, UPS, etc.) in boxes secured with tamper-evident tape.

Upon receiving the body armor, we will notify the agency that we have received their shipment and will begin our destruction and recycling process. Once completed, we will provide a certification of disposal and destruction which includes serial numbers of all materials destroyed. Dismantled materials may then be reused for other products (including gloves, car parts, etc.). The entire process tends to take 30 to 45 days. Take a look at our infographic below for a step-by-step breakdown of our process.

Body Armor Destruction and Recycling Infographic

Get Started

If you’re curious about body armor disposal, or if you’d like to get started, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us for information. We’ll work with you to understand your needs, and we’ll advise you throughout the process, so that you can rest assured that your materials are properly shipped and destroyed, and finally, recycled.

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