If you have metal prosthetics or implants in you, you probably know right off the bat what happens when you walk through a metal detector at an airport. But have you ever wondered what happens to the metals in your body when you are cremated?
Did this conversation get too morbid too fast? Not to worry, because this curiosity comes from an environmentally-friendly perspective, recycling metals, to be more specific.
A lot of people these days have easier access to modern medical technologies like titanium hips and cobalt-chrome knee joints, so it really is a valid question to ponder on what happens to the metals after they are cremated.
What Exactly Happens to Metals during Cremation
When a body is cremated, a special oven at an extremely high temperature is used. Because of the organic materials the human body is made of, the body actually evaporates into the air. What is typically left behind is calcified bone, which is not organic.
However, if the individual being cremated happens to have metal prosthetics or implants in them, you will also see those metals left behind. Especially these days, it is becoming more and more common to see metal hips, knee joints, shoulder joints, pins and even gold teeth in the cremated remains.
The reason that these metals are not evaporated along with the body is that metals have high melting points that can withstand the high temperature inside the special oven at the crematorium. Although extremely hot, the oven does not get as hot enough to melt or evaporate the metals.
What Happens to Cremated Metals
Now that we have established that cremated metals are left behind following cremation, you might be wondering what happens next. When crematoriums and funeral homes did not come across that many cremated implants back in the day, they would simply dispose of the metals in a landfill.
A recycling metals process was not common or popular at the time likely due to relatively low volumes of cremated metals. However, with more and more people with metal prosthetics being cremated, crematoriums and funeral homes were finding themselves dumping more and more cremated metals into landfills.
This practice, especially at an increasing level, was not at all friendly to the environment. Fortunately, some environmentally-conscious minds observed that this practice was becoming more and more environmentally-hazardous, they decided that something needs to be done.
Thus, a recycling metals process was established, where cremated metals are processed for other uses.
How Recycling Metals in this Context Works
There is an emerging industry where environmentally-friendly companies partner with crematoriums and funeral homes to pick up cremated metals and process them for a second use.
Some companies even provide crematoriums with processors that allow them to more easily extract the metals which they will ship to the company. Once the cremated metals are received, they will melt the metals and sell it back to various manufacturers that use metals.
This way, instead of metals in your body ending up in a landfill after cremation, they will see a second use in more metal prosthetics or even in a jet engine. Therefore, we really hope that the cremation industry gets on board with this relatively new environmentally-friendly practice of recycling cremated metals.