Medical technology has significantly advanced providing individuals with medical implants a vast improvement in his or her quality of life. It is common for people to have hip replacements, plates, and metal screws keeping bones together, or even screws for implanted teeth. There are also non-essential implants, for example, silicone breast implants. These implants need to go somewhere when a person has passed away.
One of the ways that medical implants can be disposed of is by recycling the implants.
If you previously indicated your wish to be buried, then the implants are buried with you. However, if your wish is for cremation, the implants cannot be cremated with the body.
Medical and Dental Implants
Certain medical implants will need to be removed from the body before cremation. Pacemakers, for example, contain batteries that are at risk of exploding due to the exposure to high temperatures during incineration. In addition, removing cremation dental implants, such as gold fillings, is a choice that the next-of-kin need to make.
What Happens During Incineration
During incineration, some of the medical implants will melt, for example, silicone implants. Metal implants will not melt since the temperature in the incinerator is not high enough. The funeral parlor or crematorium must remove these implants from the remains using metal detectors and magnets. During the process, the coffin also incinerated, so metal fittings from the coffin are also a by-product of cremation.
What Happens Post-Incineration to Implants
The crematorium will place all medical implants removed from the body in a container which is then collected by crematory recycling centers. All types of medical implants can be recycled, including prosthetic limbs.
The centers will sort the medical implants into distinct groups. Higher grade metals, such as cobalt and titanium, are separated from lower grade metals. Entire replacement joints, such as hips or knees, are taken apart and sorted into the correct metal group.
Higher grade metals are sold to industrial manufacturers for use in building machinery. Cobalt can be used in the building of aircraft engines, and titanium may later be found in a wind turbine, airplane, or motor vehicle. The lower grade metals are melted down and then sold as scrap metal. This metal is used by industry to manufacture everyday items, for example, street signs or billboard poles.
Increasingly, crematories recycle medical implants, but this is only with the permission of the bereaved family. Recycling is the most environmentally-safe method for disposing of medical implants.
Most crematory recycling centers will use any proceeds from the sales of recycled implants to pay the bills and then give the rest of the funds to crematoriums. Crematoriums then use this income for charitable projects in the community.