A Different Type of Metal Recycling

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Since I now have to spend the rest of my life with titanium screws in my arm, I thought it was interesting  — and maybe a little morbid, I’ll admit  — to read some articles about the recycling of metal pins, screws and joints after they’re found in the ashes of cremated bodies. Hey, I warned you that it might be morbid.

This sensitive procedure is becoming quite the practice in Europe, particularly in the UK, Holland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and Belgium. For anyone with artificial joints or medical-grade screws, metals found in the body can include cobalt chrome, titanium, and stainless steel, all  non-renewable resources that  would otherwise meet an untimely end.  One crematorium from the UK explains, “Until recently it was accepted practice to take the implant from the remains and place it with other implants until there was sufficient amount of metal to dispose of it all in the grounds of the Crematorium … The law now says that if we continue [this method instead of recycling] then there may have to be extensive changes to how the metals are buried. The environmental benefits mean it is time for a change.”  

The process is simple. “In all schemes that we are currently aware of, a single company is responsible for the collection of the orthopaedic implants from the crematoria and the onward transfer of the parts to a smelting plant that turns the material into metal granules,” one article shares. “This is environmentally friendly, will save valuable land, and provide funding for a range of worthy charities.”

There is no commercial gain from this practice, and it’s essential to note that all companies must ask permission from family members before the recycling process can take place. That’s because these metals are considered private property, and some families will want to keep them for sentimental value. I mean, I certainly want my great-grandchildren to remember me for the titanium screws in the cupboard. “Do you remember anything about great-grandma Amy?” “Not really, but I think those things were in her arm… from one of those Ye Olde Day surgeries.”

Oh, please; no. Let me do something more  exciting with my life. For information on how you can recycle metals without leaving this earth — say, through the form of e-waste recycling — check out some of our older pieces in this blog’s “green” section.

–Amy Edwards

Comments (2)

  1. Paula Holmes says:

    I have offered to try to recycle our recently deceased Mom’s artificial joints, I think 4, but perhaps 5. Is there currently a program in the US, especially in the DC area that I can contact? Thanks. plh

  2. Very interesting and helpful links…thnx

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