Metal body parts recycled to create road signs

METAL body parts collected from cremations carried out in the Lothians are being recycled into road signs and aeroplane parts abroad.

Steel hips, plates, screws and even fillings which survive the 1000C heat are collected and sold for use in the automobile and aeronautical industries as part of a national recycling scheme.

Seafield in Edinburgh and West Lothian Crematorium are both signed up to the programme, where all money raised goes to charity.

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Consent is obtained from the families before the service, with many viewing it the most respectful way of disposing of the unwanted remains.

Darren Owenson, crematorium officer at West Lothian, said the system had been operating there since the facility opened in 2010.

He said: “Because it’s such a sensitive issue, it goes to a company that deals with precious metal. They recycle it and all the money raised by that comes back to the crematorium group and they decide on the charity that they want to give it to.

“At the end of the year we have a carol service where all the families that have used the crematorium are invited to come and participate in the service and light candles.

“The people are present from the charities we are supporting and are usually handed the cheque then. It has raised a lot of money over the years for good causes.”

About half of Britain’s 260 crematoria are taking part in the collections, generating 75 tonnes of metal a year.

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

Less valuable metals are smelted down and sold for more general use such as lampposts, motorway barriers and road signs.

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Special machines separate the salvaged metal from the remains once the cremation has finished. It is then stored before being collected by contractor and taken to a central facility.

The scrap is shipped off to OrthoMetals, the Dutch company behind the recycling,

Owner Ruud Verberne said metals reclaimed from cremations were being increasingly reused.

He said: “What is important is that the metals are being recycled, and this is a growing business both in Britain and elsewhere in Europe.”

Edinburgh City Council, which runs Mortonhall and Warriston crematoria, said it did not recycle metal at its venues and they were instead buried in a garden of remembrance.