Whenever I present about metal recycling to a group in the funeral profession, I start off by asking through a show of hands, “Who feels very comfortable with their knowledge of the recycling process”? Then I ask, “Who feels confused or frustrated”? Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the latter is always the predominant choice. I continue my presentation with the hope of educating the group about the process, the benefits, the things to be aware of, and the overall good that recycling post-cremation metals can bring to their company, their families, and society as a whole. MSRR is unique in that we always disclose our methods, back them up with the science of recycling and follow through with our promises with transparency.
The central core value of Mid-States Recycling & Refining (MSRR) has always been complete transparency. That is what has been missing from recyclers looking to work with crematories. We’ve heard time and again from the crematories we reached out to that they had very little understanding of how the process of recycling works; yet there were dozens of so-called recyclers calling to solicit their business who could not (or would not) explain the process in a straightforward manner. I’ve always felt that the more our customers know, the easier it is for them to make decisions. When the process and the true composition and value of the metals received are shrouded in mystery, it only creates distrust and confusion. That is why we offer an open-door policy for anyone who wants to tour our facility and witness every step of the journey. We also offer a sample of each melt for our customers to take if they want to check our findings.
In order to properly recycle the metal received, we need to:
1) Internally log in the customer’s shipment, which includes exact weights and types of post-cremation metals (e.g., implant prosthetics, pacemakers or dental).
2) Create a proper mixture of copper and flux with the high-value metals in preparation for smelting.
3) Choose the appropriate furnace based on weight and metal type for smelting the metal into a homogenous bar.
4) Take a “pin” sample during the smelting process, which is representative of the whole bar. This sample is necessary to properly perform an assay.
5) Pour the molten metal into a suitable-sized mold for cooling and hardening.
6) Perform a material-specific assay (analysis to determine the precise metal composition) depending on the type of precious metal. This includes our ability to perform a quick X-ray fluorescence analysis in front of our customers for immediate results that are in range of the final assay.
7) Take the percentages of metal found in the assay and divide them by the weight of the bar to determine the exact metal content.
8) Finally, give our customer the results based on the publicly published market prices for each metal.
As you can see, when done correctly, the recycling process is very technically precise and requires a lot of highly specialized equipment and expertise. MSRR operates a 19,000-square-foot, EPA-permitted recycling facility with 8 furnaces for smelting and a comprehensive assay lab for analysis. We have a trading department as well that has the ability to trade at up-to-the-minute pricing. We can smelt as little as a few ounces to as much as 800 pounds in a single furnace.
From its beginning in 1982, MSRR has offered our open-door policy to our customers wanting to witness their metal being recycled. No matter what industry we deal with, customers are always curious about the process. Our business requires so much trust, and because we allow our customers to view every step, they have a peace of mind that can’t be had from a sales pitch alone. Our compensation is based on the actual composition of the bar, not just the weight of the container you ship to us. That is why we can confidently say we know we pay more, whether to our customer or their charity of choice. As a result, we don’t lose customers.
We have invited a few of our customers to give you their perspective on how we operate. Here is what one of our customers had to say about his experience at our facility:
“Being an owner and operator of a crematory has been an interesting journey for the past 20 years. From our humble beginnings, we tried to figure out how to deal with the metal recyclable materials. We found it to be a challenge.
Mid-States Recycling intrigued us because they have an “open door” policy. No one else had approached us with this concept. We have been running our crematory with an ‘open door’ policy from day one, so we liked that. We had accumulated quite a bit of recyclable material and needed to move it from our facility. Our staff loaded the van and we drove to Mid-States Recycling after setting an appointment, and the technicians and staff that greeted us were all extremely professional and knowledgeable about the whole process.
Beginning with the initial weigh-in of materials, the sorting of the types of materials and all of the documentation that was printed in triplicate was a breath of fresh air. We were handed paper copies of all of the weights of all our materials. (We had never seen any documentation of this sort from the other companies.)
The witnessing of the mixture of materials and smelting process was fun to watch. Our material never left our sight throughout the entire process. The cleanliness of the metal processing area was impeccable. Once all of our material had been smelted, we were able to witness a quick assay analysis of our metal. This was when we discovered the precise content and value of our metal.
The whole process took approximately an hour and fifteen minutes. We have witnessed this process a number of times, and we are extremely confident with the procedures and outcome of the meticulous handling of our recyclables.
It is with great respect and honor that we recommend Mid-States Recycling & Refining for all of our recycling needs.”
– Stephen C. Dawson – President Monarch Cremation Society | Franklin Park, Illinois
You might be asking yourself why it is important to work directly with the recycler rather than a middleman-broker. That is a valid question, perhaps arising from your experience working with the many dealers who often take great care of crematories’ needs in other product areas. For example, you may have worked with a major casket company who opts to sell only through distributors. This allows the manufacturer to set his own prices but have the benefit of reaching all geographic areas. What separates one distributor from another could be the level of customer service, ease of ordering, or special pricing based on volume or length of the relationship. This can benefit everyone in the loop.
So why is it not appropriate to think the same way when it comes to recycling? The crucial issue is to differentiate between end-of-the-line recyclers like MSRR, who have their own facilities and adhere to EPA regulations and guidelines, and middleman-brokers, who do not. The most apt comparison is with the notorious cash-for-gold stores that popped up everywhere around 2011. These charlatans preyed on the public’s ignorance of how much their gold was actually worth and grossly took advantage of them. Middleman-brokers function in much the same way; it’s a relationship forged in misrepresentation.
Unlike in the earlier example of the casket manufacturer and his distributors, you cannot compare an end-of-the-line recycler with a middleman simply on the basis of the rate for service. Just looking at one company’s rates and comparing to another’s won’t actually offer you any real insight as to how much you should expect to get back. When you are dealing with a middleman and you are unhappy with the result after your metal has been processed (by whatever recycling facility he is actually using), it’s too late. You have to take it on faith that the value you have been offered is accurate (and that the handling fee he is taking is fair). If he doesn’t have a facility for you to visit and doesn’t allow you to check the valuation before accepting the results, you are at a serious disadvantage, with little to no recourse. In stark contrast, here’s how another valued MSRR customer describes his experience with a true end-of-the-line recycler:
“The difference I experienced with Mid-States Recycling compared to the others I tried was night and day. After working with them once, it was very apparent the other company we had used took advantage of us. They took the time to thoroughly explain why their process would net better results and, they recommended a processor that helped us tremendously. The processor (which we purchased) recovered all the small metal pieces to be recycled which is great, but it also turned the cremated remains into a very fine powder that was metal-free. It makes for a much nicer presentation to our families.
We have dealt with Mid-States multiple times and as we grow our cremation business we are happy to have Mid-States Recycling to work with and would strongly recommend them to other crematories.”
– Kevin Brown – Brown’s Cremation & Funeral Service Grand Junction, Colorado.
To view our recycling process, request free collection containers or to get more information, visit us our website at www.cremationrecycling.com or call 847-298-0010. FBA
Kevin McKay | Manager – Crematory Division