In Denmark, The Danes Recycle You

There’s the oft-repeated factoid that the Indians used every part of a buffalo when they killed it. The Danes are learning from their example:

But in one area, greenery might be taken to excess. Denmark’s crematorium association has revealed its profitable sideline in recycling metal parts salvaged from the dead. Burnt bodies leave knee or hip replacements that can be recycled as scrap metal, says Allan Vest, the association’s chairman. Since 2006 the country’s 31 crematoriums have earned DKr 77,762 ($15,000) from 4,810kg of salvaged metal sold to a Dutch recycler.

When the ecclesiastical ministry changed the law to allow such recycling in 2005, it barred the reuse of such spare parts in works of art. But it did not say anything about telling relatives about the fate of a deceased. This is not a problem, says Mr Vest; recycling is good for the environment.

That principle underlies a second practice: recycling crematorium heat. Earlier this year, 15 crematoriums said they favoured sending waste heat into district-heating systems. This is because new regulations, due to come into force in 2011, will require crematoriums to filter out toxic substances such as dioxins and mercury from waste gases. To do this the crematoriums must use water to cool chimney gases from around 800°C to 180°C. It is the excess energy from the cooling process that crematoriums want to capture.

What’s next?

Det er folk! Soylent Grøn er skabt op fra folk!

  • tmana

    Seriously? The most likely progression is going to be that from required-consent for postmortem organ harvesting (see the back of most US State ID’s) to requiring you to to opt out if you wish your body buried intact. Then there will be limitations on the circumstances under which you may opt out, and possibly taxes and “wastage fees” for refusal.

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  • Dr.D

    I did not see anything in the original article requiring compulsory cremation (did I miss something there?), and I would certainly be opposed to that. However, we certainly allow cremation here in the US, as do most other countries of the world today.

    This then raises two realistic questions:
    1) What are you going to do with the artificial joints that do not burn?
    2) Do you really want to throw away all of that heat?

    Most families, in receiving the ashes of a cremated family member, will not be pleased to find an undestroyed hip replacement in with the ashes. You have to do something with this. What they have done sounds to me like a very prudent move to me. That piece of metal is not really a part of the deceased; it was only an implant.

    Secondly, cremation does not simply mean putting a match to the coffin and letting it burn by itself. Considerable fuel, usually natural gas, is expended in a cremation. So there is a definite expenditure of energy from available energy sources to perform a cremation. Once it is hot gas going up the stack, is there some benefit to letting it escape with all of that energy, or might it not make sense to recover as much as can reasonably be done, just as they describe? Here again, I think they are making an intelligent move.