Thousands of people rely on surgical implants to keep them alive or to improve their quality of life. Pacemakers keep hearts beating, knee and hip replacements help with increased mobility, and some individuals choose cosmetic surgery for aesthetic purposes.
Any foreign object introduced to the body on a permanent basis by way of surgery is considered a surgical implant. These implants remain part of your body for life, but what happens to them when you die?
Burial or Cremation
If you choose a traditional burial, then your implants will remain in your body. The implants made of metals may remain in the ground for centuries and are unlikely to decompose.
A person that chooses cremation will have certain implants removed before being cremated. Cosmetic implants, such as silicone breast enhancements may melt during the cremation. Other implants, mostly the metal ones will go through various processes after the cremation.
This may include cremation recycling surgical implants.
Removal of Implants Before Cremation
Some implants have to be removed before cremation can take place as they are hazardous or cannot be recovered after cremation. These types of implants can also be removed if a traditional burial has been chosen. There are two types of implants typically removed at this stage in the process: pacemakers and dental gold.
The sealant around pacemakers and components inside can explode if they remain inside the body during cremation. This is dangerous for crematory workers and can cause damage to crematory equipment. Pacemakers will be removed before the cremation took place and kept with others for recycling.
Recycled pacemakers are sent to specialist recycling centers where they are refurbished. Once the pacemakers are in the best condition possible, they are donated to less fortunate countries around the world. Citizens of these countries can then have life-saving pacemakers installed, which they previously would not have been able to afford.
Dental gold may melt away and is typically too small to gather from the remains after cremation. The family of the deceased must request that any gold teeth be removed and has to organize this with a dentist.
Although dental gold is the most valuable item to recycle, it is costly to remove. The dental gold can be given back to the family with the rest of the deceased’s remains or be kept by the crematory in recycling containers. Once a substantial amount of gold has been recycled, it is then collected by a company that specializes in recycling implants.
Recycling Metallic Implants After Cremation
Most implants in the body are made of high grade metals and will not melt during cremation. Cobalt-chromium, stainless steel, and titanium are the metals mostly used for surgical implants in the body. These implants cost thousands to be placed in the body but become obsolete after death.
After the cremation, the remains are sifted and ground in various ways. During these processes, metallic implants are removed from the body using a variety of sorting methods. A powerful magnet can draw most of the metals from the remains, but hand-sorting is another sorting method.
The recycled implants are then placed in commercial recycling containers that are placed at the crematories. The crematory will contact the recycling center once the containers are full and get the containers ready for collection.
Recycling Centers for Implants
Metal implants collected from crematories are sorted further at recycling centers. Staff at recycling centers will sort the metal implants into different categories for the next steps in cremation recycling surgical implants.
The sorted implant metals are melted down according to type. The metals are then sold to purchasers of metals but at a very low price. The companies that purchase the recycled metal will use the higher grade metals for manufacturing aeronautical or automotive parts. Metals of lower quality may be used in traffic signs or street poles.
Cremation Recycling is Beneficial
Cremations are already a greener option than traditional burials. Recycling surgical implants during the cremation process is an added benefit. A person can benefit by receiving a pacemaker and recycling metal implants keeps landfills clear of unnecessary by-products.
The money received when the melted metals are sold is also put to good use. The recycling centers need to pay their overheads and processing costs, but the remaining money is given back to the crematoria. The crematoria rarely keep this money for themselves, but rather donate it to hospice care or other charities in the community.