Families to be asked about artificial limb recycling

Paul Barton
Paul Barton
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Hip and knee replacements left over after cremations in Wigan are now set to be recycled in future.

But bereavement services bosses say that there will be full consultation with grieving families as the environmentally-friendly initiative takes off in the borough.

Council officials will be working with a team of Dutch specialists and the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) - and part of the proceeds are expected to be donated to local charities.

Before now the artificial limbs would just have been buried in the crematorium’s grounds, when a sufficient quantity had been amassed.

Chiefly the recycling process will focus on two separate elements: hip and knee replacements and the materials used in coffin construction.

Orthopaedic implants are made from cobalt steel and the staples and nails used in building coffins are made of ferrous metals.

An element of precious metal is also recovered from the manufactured joints as part of the overall process.

Councillors have been told that any remaining precious metals will generally melt, during the cremation procedure, being reduced to a granular form which cannot be easily retrieved.

Crematorium staff at the Lower Ince site are set to be issued with separate containers for the ferrous and non-ferrous metals, with OrthoMetals usually then collecting the overall proceeds around twice a year.

Once the metals leave the crematorium, the implants will be converted into granules by the contractor, to be used for industrial purposes, with the smaller amounts of metals recycled using existing methods.

OrthoMetals, based in the north-east of the Netherlands, is the only company in Europe currently offering the comprehensive recycling service.

Confirming the scheme’s intentions Karl Battersby, the council’s director for economy and environment, said: “We are committed to giving back to the community as part of The Deal.”

Crematorium managers are also advised to set up their own individual security arrangements, before the metal is eventually taken away for recycling.

A spokesman for the ICCM said: “For many years metals remaining following cremation have been collected and buried in the grounds of the crematorium.

“This uses up valuable space within the crematorium grounds and places metals into the ground that will remain there forever.

“These metals can normally be smelted down and re-used, as is now common practice on the Continent.”

The proceeds from the recycling, after charges are taken for collection, transport, smelting and service costs, are then delivered to the institute.

Part of the system sees the ICCM delivering donations to death-related charities - at the last count nationwide this had seen £3.3m given over to such causes.

Any surplus which is generated is then delivered to the scheme member, in this case Wigan Council, for it to be redistributed to a nominated charity within that area.

In a report on the scheme Paul Barton, the council’s assistant director for environmental services, said: “By adopting the recycling of metals following cremation, it will allow the council to maximise the use of its cemetery grounds, it will improve the service’s overall environmental compliance and it also presents the opportunity to support local nominated charities.”

The scheme has now been officially ratified by Coun Kevin Anderson, the portfolio holder for environmental services.

For several years the owners of the privately-run Howe Bridge Crematorium, near Atherton, have recycled leftover metals, with the likes of Wigan and Leigh Hospice benefitting from subsequent charitable donations.