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Specials November 28, 2011 10:30:45 AM

OrthoMetals recycles prosthetics collected from cemetry

Paul Ploumis
ScrapMonster Author
OrthoMetals is a company specialized in prosthetics recycling, the company sends its trucks to collect metals from 450 crematoria in 15 European countries at no charge
OrthoMetals recycles prosthetics collected from cemetry

AMSTERDAM (Scrap Monster): OrthoMetals is a company specialized in prosthetics recycling, the company sends its trucks to collect metals from 450 crematoria in 15 European countries at no charge. 

At its warehouse in Zwolle, 70 miles east of Amsterdam, it sorts the metals into crates of iron, titanium, stainless steel and cobalt chromium and sells them to scrap dealers at the going market rate.

After deducting costs, including transportation and the salaries for six workers, the proceeds are returned to the crematoria or to national burial associations to be donated to charities of their choice. Usually the funds go to cancer societies, research institutions or any other medical facilities.

Margins are small. A new hip costs the patient at least $2,700 before surgery, but it has a scrap value of about $4.10.

Not only imperishable body parts are recoverable from the ashes. People are cremated wearing glasses, watches and rings and with coins in their pockets. Sometimes the steel tips of work men's shoes glint in the pile of remains.

Precious metals, such as gold, silver or platinum, are recovered by the crematoria and offered to the family or placed in the urn. Items such as pacemakers that run on batteries are removed from the corpse before cremation.

Coffins are stripped of gold-plated crucifixes, handles and ornaments before they go into the 1,650-degree oven and collected by the recycler for melting down.

Though unusual, OrthoMetals provides a service for a swiftly growing industry. Burial ground is becoming increasingly scarce and expensive, and most families know that unless high maintenance costs are paid, cemeteries often will remove coffins after 20 years and rebury bodies in common graves.

In the Netherlands, a country with a strong Calvinist tradition where church burials used to be the rule, 55 percent of the dead are now cremated, and that figure is rising. In Japan, nearly everyone is cremated.

OrthoMetals also has collection centers in the United States, Canada and Australia.
The company began in 1997 when Verberne, who was in the recycling business, met Jan Gabriels, an orthopedic surgeon who was dealing with a hip problem of Verberne’s 1-year-old daughter. Gabriels had given an 84-year-old patient a new hip just a few weeks before the old woman died.

The two men pondered that her prosthesis likely was destined for a landfill or to be buried uselessly on cemetery grounds. Verberne said they decided to set up a partnership to “do something worthwhile with the metals.” Columbia Tribune reported.

 

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