Cremation Metal Recycling: Don’t Fall For Illusions

By Kevin McKay, Manager of Cremation Recycling, Mid-States Recycling & Refining

As consumers, we’re conditioned to seek out the best deals. Whether it be a vehicle purchase or how much we pay for groceries, we always want to get the best deal. This is where ad agencies prove their merit by perfectly tailoring the solicitation to us to make sure we buy that specific product or service – makes me think of the song “Satisfaction” by the Stones where Jagger sings “A man comes on and tells me, how white my shirts can be”.


But it’s also key to make sure we aren’t sacrificing quality for the illusion of a great price or fee. There are countless examples of too-good-to-be-true offers in the world, especially since the advent of the internet, which gives a global platform for deceptive practices. Common sense should prevail, but what about when the appeal comes from a position of authority? From doctors “preferring” a certain brand of cigarettes back in the 1940s to incredible weight-loss claims still touted today, it can be very difficult to tell whether we’re being deceived or being given sound advice. This is never more true than when considering a metal recycler for your crematory.


Intuitively, when crematory owners are looking into our company, they start off a conversation asking me “what are your rates?” or “how do your rates compare to those of your competitors?” While you should definitely know what the terms of the agreement are, the “rates of return” aren’t nearly as good an indicator of what you should expect to receive from the recycler as you might think. What you should be focused on is how the recycler is able to substantiate the findings they’re reporting.


First, you need to understand the specifics of the transaction of sending in your metals to be recycled. A crematory owner is in the unenviable position of not knowing exactly what is contained in the scrap drum. This puts the recycler in a position of power. Frankly, the recyclers can report whatever they want, and unfortunately, it’s all too common that some of them do just that. As an example, if your scrap drum had $10,000 in actual value, but a recycler who lacks transparent practices reported only $3,000, how would you know? The rates of return in this scenario are meaningless — they were only used to beat their competition and get your metal.


Here are three measures you can and should take to ensure that you are being treated fairly:


  1. You should always work with a recycler who offers you a sample from your melt. During the smelting process when recycling metal, we need to draw a sample of the metal when it’s in a molten state in order to properly assay it (analyze it’s composition). Think of getting blood drawn by your doctor to determine your cholesterol level.


When this metal assay is done, a piece can easily be set aside for you, the client. This should be offered to you every time without you asking for it after the reporting. Make sure this is a part of the recycler’s protocol.


  1. You should work with a recycler who has an open-door policy. Because the value of the metals recovered through the recycling process is very high, you really should try to visit your recycling partner at least once. But, given how busy funeral directors and crematory operators are, maybe it’s not realistic for you. However, you should always at least get a couple of comprehensive references from people who have been able to visit the recycler’s facility. Ask them what they saw: how many furnaces were there? How professional was the staff and how many staff members were there? Did it seem like a well-run operation? A truly useful reference goes into detail and is without any personal biases.


Seeing the process in person is a great experience that you should try to have at least once. But whether or not you can, you should definitely be encouraged by your recycler to visit their facility. This demonstrates how confident they are in their operation.


  1. You should demand detailed reporting. As a recycler, we look at the process as multi-faceted. Yes, we will ultimately buy the metal contained, but first things first, we need to analyze and report to our clients what they’ve sent us. This reporting should detail important information like, how much metal was sent in, how much the bar weighed after it was melted, and the assayed percentage for each metal, to name a few key details. It surprises me how unscientific some recyclers’ approach is when it comes to reporting. In my opinion, the more info the better.


To sum up, in a world where we can instantly compare prices online in the palm of our hand, our expectation for fast and accurate results are higher than ever. But some things require a bit of digging and communication between you and your recycling partner. The advice I want to leave you with is this: (1) Ask as many questions as you need to feel comfortable, and (2) don’t settle for less than good answers.