Friday, July 3, 2015

Ultimate recycling: artificial joints, post-cremation

It was fun and interesting -- but also a little weird -- to report and write this morning's story about artificial joint recycling.

Ultimate recycling: artificial joints, post-cremation

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It was fun and interesting -- but also a little weird -- to report and write this morning's story about artificial joint recycling.

More crematoria are doing it because of a confluence of three factors -- more people are living longer and dying with artificial joints, more people are being cremated...and a green ethic is pervading society.

But some find it a little unsettling, to be sure. And crematoria are taking care to make sure they don't make money from the deal. They give it to charity.

You can read more about it here.

A sidebar shows that recycling and reusing hearing aids and eyeglasses after a person dies is only the beginning.  Pacemakers, which present an explosion risk during cremation, and prosthetics are seeing the potential for reuse as well. Then there are the places that use the heat from high cremation temperatures -- 1,600 to 1,800 degrees Fahrenheit -- to warm buildings, offices...and at least one municipal swimming pool.

That's at the bottom of the linked story.

This will tell you a little bit about reporting: I was having a difficult time coming up with what journalists call "a real person" -- in this case, someone who wasn't a funeral director or recycler, just a regular family.  Funeral directors knew of people, but they seemed uncomfortable with calling them to ask if they'd talk to me.

My aunt has artificial joints, but journalistic ethics prevent us from writing about family members or friends. I was getting down to the wire. What to do?

A group of tour guides coming through the Inquirer yesterday saved me. They attended the morning news meeting, and when my editor described the story I was working on, they perked up. I heard about it and tracked them to the lunchroom, where we had an enthusiastic discussion about life, death, joints, recycling and even -- read the end of the story -- war.

Thank you, ladies.

Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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About this blog

GreenSpace is about environmental issues and green living. Bauers also writes a biweekly GreenSpace column about environmental health issues for the Inquirer’s Sunday “Health” section.

Sandy Bauers is the environment reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, where she has worked for more than 20 years as a reporter and editor. She lives in northern Chester County with her husband, two cats, a large vegetable garden and a flock of pet chickens.

Reach Sandy at sbauers@phillynews.com.

Sandy Bauers Inquirer GreenSpace Columnist
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