A growing number of crematories are turning to specialized companies to help in recycling titanium implants and other metals.
This cooperation not only keeps metals from ending up in landfill but also reduces pollution levels and water contamination. In a world increasingly conscious of our environmental impact, even end-of-life choices have green alternatives.
Crematory staff removes replacement titanium hip implants or knee joints as they can resist the temperatures during the cremation of 1400 to 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. So, before cremation, the titanium is removed from the body to recycle the implants.
Smaller pieces of metal, for example, titanium tooth implants, which are attached to the jaw bone through the gum, are collected once the remains have cooled.
These smaller implants, and other pieces of metal such as handles and hinges on the cask, are recovered by passing a magnet over the ashes – a simple yet effective task.
Advice to families
Working together with crematories, families can alert staff to any titanium implant materials. Then, experienced crematory personnel can advise on the removal and recycling process.
While crematories understand the advice on recycling titanium implant materials, it is also important that information is available to explain to families what is involved in the process as well as what happens to items afterward.
Families are told the exact amount of compensation involved generated by the recycling program, enabling them to donate funds to their preferred charity or to form part of a more considerable amount overseen by the crematory board of directors.
For the crematory, it’s crucial to have equipment that speeds up the process and doesn’t create additional, complicated work for staff. This includes a recycling container, which once full, is collected by a company specializing in implant recycling.
Once a container is full of titanium implants and other metals, it is collected by the recycling business; a process that is compliant with all laws and is handled respectfully.
Specialized machinery and staff within the recycling center will check over the different metals, enabling them to be separated and delivered to furnaces where materials are melted and cast.
Regulations are in place to ensure medical parts are not allowed to re-enter the health sector as seemingly new implants.
Not only is there the danger of contamination, the heat of cremation means the characteristics of the metals will have changed.
And any new medical items, such as scalpels or scissors, will still have to meet the exact and specific specifications required for use in the health sector.
New metal from old
Recycling metals in this way mean there is less of a need to mine for new raw materials for steelmaking, a procedure that often damages the environment and requires long-distance transport.
Steelmaking uses this new metal from old as its primary source, with electric arc furnaces able to manufacture very good quality steels for tools that require demanding specifications, such as orthopedic instruments.
Ultimately the recycling of metal implants allows the production of new quality metal that can be used in everything from soda cans to the high-tech components of a wind turbine, a car or airplane.