A friend recently had a hip replacement, which got me thinking about prosthetic implants. When we think of recycling, we think about glass, plastic containers, newspapers, aluminum cans, etc. But what about recycling implanted orthopedic prosthetics such hips and artificial knees. Once a person has died, he or she no longer needs them. Whether buried in a cemetery or cremated, these materials do not decompose. So why not recycle? It sounds a bit morbid, but isn’t this a great way to reuse a valuable material instead of letting it go to waste?

Current prosthetics use titanium, iron, stainless steel, and cobalt chromium—which have recycle value. Recycling orthopedic prosthesis implants left from the cremation process is now a common practice in many European countries. OrthoMetals, a company recycling metals from crematoria, collects these no longer needed implants from all over Europe. After a process involving magnets, conveyor belts and sorting by hand, the metals are sold to companies that melt them down, giving them a new lease on life.

It’s clear that this service provides an environmentally friendly way to dispose of prosthetics. An added bonus is that after OrthoMetals has recovered its costs, it returns the remaining monies to the crematoriums, which then donate the proceeds to charities. Maybe an enterprising American company should look into the prosthetic recycling business!