The benefactors of recycled prosthetics and orthotics from cremation are people—those of today and future generations. Any activity that decreases waste in landfills reduces the transportation of non-renewable resources and supports the practices of recycling for reuse benefits the environment. The practice of donating profits to charitable organizations benefits society; society and its environment sustain people.
Reuse of Prosthetic Limbs
Due to legal considerations, prosthetic limbs cannot be reused in the United States. However, there are non-government organizations that distribute these prosthetic limbs for reuse in developing countries whose population is without access to prosthetic and orthotic services. There are applications of used prostheses to improve the quality of services at clinics without any adverse effects upon the industry, such a teaching, research, and development.
The recovery and recycling of valuable metals found in prosthetic and orthopedic implants is legal, but families must receive full disclosure of the types and weight of the recovered metals with an explanation of how the funds were generated. A Certificate of Destruction is sent to both the crematory and the funeral home to certify the full re-melting before resale and reuse. The metals recovered from a prosthetic limb cannot be reused or recognized as another prosthetic limb.
The recycling and reuse of any material is the foundation of sustainability. The heavy metals, and metal alloys, found in orthopedic implants and dental prosthetics do not decompose and are fabricated from non-renewable natural resources. Any effort to recycle and reuse these metals benefit people – both today and those of future generations.
The Human Factor
The recycling of prosthetics and orthotic limbs and implants will, in time, bring an end to selling and recycling valuable metals obtained by illicit means. There are many organizations in the United States in the business of recycling heavy metals, and metal alloys, from cremation and in the practice of donating all profits to the charities-of-choice of either the recyclers or of the surviving family members.
Some organizations give the families the choice of compensation paid from these profits for their time and effort in agreeing to participate in the recovery/recycling program. Along with the full disclosure relating to the recovered metals, the family will receive a donation receipt from their chosen charity for tax purposes.
Pacemakers and Defibrillators
Pacemakers and defibrillators are not disposed of or recycled. These medical devices are returned to the manufacturer to determine quality assurance and disposition.
Medical and Dental Facilities
Heavy metals can also be recovered from medical and dental facilities from the explant of orthopedic implants and dental prosthetics; examples of these implants are bone screws and other devices to replace or support damaged bone, dentures, partials and orthodontic appliances. Drums are provided to these facilities to place recovered metals for collection.
Whether prosthetic limbs are repurposed in another country, or whether the recovered metals are re-melted and distributed back to the medical industry for other clinical applications or distributed into the market for commercial use, the beneficiaries of these efforts are people. The environment is less stressed by the reduction of metal waste in landfills and by the preservation of non-renewable resources.
The use and accessibility to prosthetic limbs enhance the lives of those in developing countries. Society is supported by the donations to charities that otherwise would not be made. And, the common benefactor of these efforts is people.