It’s sounds a bit squeamish at first. Sifting through burial ashes to collect screws, rods, iron balls: pieces of hips, knees, and other implanted body parts that once made life easier for loved ones. Yet, for employees at OrthoMetals, a unique recycling company in The Netherlands, it’s all in day’s work. And for 450 funeral homes in 15 European countries, as well as the many charities who benefit from their services, OrthoMetals is a blessing.
According to a recent AP article by Arthur Max, Ruud Verberne, director of OrthoMetals says about 200 tons of valuable metals are recovered a year from funeral parlors through the company’s recycling process. In their warehouse in Zwolle, items are sorted into categories: iron, titanium, stainless steel and cobalt chromium and then sold to scrap dealers at market value. Right off the bat, it’s clear this service provides an environmentally friendly way to dispose of prosthestics (check out their schematic). But additionally, the company is self sustaining. Proceeds from the metal sales cover costs (OrthoMetals does not charge funeral homes for pickup), employee salaries and transportation. An added bonus is that after costs are covered, remaining monies are returned to the crematoriums or the national burial associations, which may donate to charities of their choice, such as cancer societies, research institutions, etc.
According to their website, OrthoMetals began in 1997, “founded by Jan Gabriëls and Ruud Verberne. Jan Gabriëls is an active orthopedic surgeon, who has more than 30 years of experience in his field. Ruud Verberne is an expert in recycling and logistics with 35 years of experience.” And although their company is based in the Netherlands, they are expanding, and for good reason. Death is inevitable, the world population continues to increase and burial land is shrinking rapidly. Even since 2006, they have offered their metal recycling services in the United States (although I had never heard of this service – maybe we need to get the word out) and any US crematorium can join the program.
With modern prosthetics allowing more and more people to replace worn out joints, companies such as OrthoMetals provide an earth-saving service never dreamed of perhaps even 50 years ago. Sadly, we’re all going to go someday. But by encouraging more eco-friendly companies like OrthMetals to help us erase some of our footprints after we die, we can still be green beyond the grave.