Metal body parts from cremations recycled into road signs

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Some of the metal objects retrieved from crematoriums - including metal body parts - which are then used as road signs. (SWNS)

(SWNS)
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Metal body parts from the dead are being recycled into road signs, lamp posts, car parts and aircraft engines.

Steel hips, plates and screws from legs and skulls are collected after cremation and sent off for recycling as part of a nationwide scheme.

Even metal plates from false teeth and tiny fragments from fillings can be recovered and re-used, together with metal fittings on coffins.

The money-saving scheme came about as some crematoriums easily fill a large recycling bin with metal body parts every month.

High value metals which survive the 1000-degree cremation are then sold for use in the automobile and aeronautical industries.

They include cobalt and titanium, found in some implants and dental work, with cobalt used in aircraft engines.

But other less valuable metals are melted down and sold for more general use - including road signs, motorway barriers and lamp posts.

The metal salvaged from cremations is put in large wheelie bins at the crematoriums and collected by contractors who take it to specialist plants for recycling.

Money made is donated to charity and almost £1million has been raised for good causes since the project began in Britain in 2004.

The Dutch company behind the recycling says around half Britain's 260 crematoriums have signed up to the scheme which is generating 75 tonnes of metal a year.

Relatives are asked if they want to keep metal parts of loved ones before cremations by the centres taking part in the scheme.

The vast majority say they have no need for them and sign a consent form agreeing to the recycling.

When the cremation is over the ashes and other remaining items go into a compartment in the cremator and then into a special cremulator machine which separates any metal from remaining pieces of bone.

One of the crematoriums in the scheme is at Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, which has an average of four to five services a day.

Around one large bin a month is filled with the unwanted metal body parts for recycling.

The crematorium at Haycombe in nearby Bath has around 2,000 cremations a year and also recycles unwanted metal body parts.

A spokesman for the council-owned crematorium said: "We subscribe to a not-for-profit recycling scheme for all metals recovered from the cremation process.

"Applicants may opt to retain the metals but they must take them away and they cannot be returned afterwards."

The recycling schemes are governed by strict criteria set down by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management.

Bristol City Council, which operates two cemeteries, is considering joining the scheme.

Currently metal body parts are buried in the grounds of the crematoria but new legislation means this will no longer be possible.

Ruud Verberne (corr), owner of OrthoMetals (corr), the Dutch company behind the recycling, said: "Metals reclaimed from cremations are being increasingly re-used.

"High value metals such as cobalt go into the aircraft or automotive industries.

"Others are sold to smelters and foundries and it is possible that they end up as roadsigns or motorway barriers - there's no way of knowing.

"What is important is that the metals are being recycled, and this is a growing business both in Britain and elsewhere in Europe."

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