The unknown can be exciting. How’s this suspense movie going to end? Or that book you haven’t been able to put down? Watching the tenth inning of game 7 of the 2016 World Series that finally saw the Cubs win their first World Series since 1908 was, to say the least, edge-of-your-seat excitement.

More often, however, facing the unknown is stressful and frustrating. For most of us, the classic example is putting your car in the hands of an unfamiliar auto mechanic. You wonder whether the problem will be minor or whether you have just committed yourself to several thousands of dollars’ worth of major work. Unless you’re knowledgeable yourself or closely related to someone who can vouch for the mechanic’s reputation, you will probably feel at the mercy of this stranger.

Wouldn’t it be great to have an expert there with you in all such real-life situations to act as a guide? Well, I don’t claim to be an expert on everything, least of all auto mechanics, but I have been in the recycling industry for going on 18 years, so I do consider myself an expert in this field. I am here to offer you some tips to help you make an informed decision when choosing a metal recycler.

And it is an important decision. Believe it or not, if your crematory performs in the neighborhood of 500 cremations annually, you should be able to generate at least $10,000 per year from the metal collected post cremation. Even if you are one of the many crematories who choose to donate these funds to charity, which is a great idea and can generate a great deal of good will in your community; you still want to be sure that you are working with a legitimate recycler so that you can maximize your donation. Ultimately, they can determine how large or small your donation will be.

The following are three tips to help in your decision making:

1. Visit the recycler’s facility and witness the process at least once.
The recycling process has a lot of moving parts, and some of it starts with you, such as having a good collection system or using a processor that separates the small metal fragments from the cremated remains for you. But once the materials leave your hands, you probably feel like you are in uncertain territory. It’s a complicated technical procedure—checking in the metal, separating the metal types, smelting, and performing the final assay. Someone can just try to explain the process to you, but nothing compares to first-hand experience. The opportunity to see all the steps as they take place will leave a lasting impression. Any potential recycler should be willing to give you that reassurance.

2. Request a sample from each lot of metal you have recycled.
The assay process is the final step in recycling your high-value metal. An assay is essentially the process of analyzing a sample from the melted metal to establish the precise elemental content. Every time your high-value metal is smelted, a sample is taken in order to perform an assay. Regardless of which recycler is handling this for you, they need to perform this step in order to complete the recycling process. Without the sample, they can only take a guess as to what the content is and thus, guesstimate the value of your metal. I’m even aware of some recyclers who pay based solely on the number of cremations performed, rather than the scientific determination of an accurate assay.

I would recommend asking for the sample after the value and processed weights have been reported to you. Think of it the way you would a secret shopper. The secret shopper doesn’t alert the business they’re looking to investigate; they go in as an unassuming shopper to get a feel for how things would operate under normal conditions. Same here. The sample is a way for you to verify through a third-party that the numbers being reported to you are accurate. By asking for the sample afterward they aren’t aware that you may be checking their numbers before they’re reported to you. It also serves to be certain they’re actually processing your lot individually, not co-mingling with others.

3. Ask for comprehensive references and actually call them.
In my opinion, this is the best and most practical of the three tips. In the on-line world we live in now, we increasingly rely on recommendations from total strangers on such issues as where to eat dinner or whom to trust as an auto mechanic. Most of us can sense uninformed or obviously fabricated testimonials. We may read “They were great and did an awesome job!” But that doesn’t go into much detail, does it? “What was great about them?” and “What did they do that was so awesome?” would be natural follow-up questions I’d love to ask that “reviewer.”
In a consequential decision like choosing a recycling company, you have some important questions. For example: Do you own an EPA-permitted recycling facility? How long have you been in business? Do you have your own assay lab for metal analysis? Am I welcome to view the process? First-hand experience is generally the best way to satisfy yourself that you’re getting honest answers to your questions. However, when it isn’t practical because of time or geographic constraints, you may be wondering where you can find an unbiased guide in this unfamiliar territory. The obvious answer is to turn to your crematory colleagues.

Any recycler you are thinking of using should be willing to furnish you with references of crematory owners who have been to their facility. The crematory profession tends to be very collegial, and reaching out to fellow crematory owners for their counsel should feel natural. So don’t be shy about calling those references. They will doubtless be happy to talk with you about their experiences. You would do the same for them. The four questions in the previous paragraph are a good place to start.

I hope you find these three tips helpful in navigating your cremation-metals recycling options. When you change someone’s experience of a book or movie by telling them the ending, it’s called a spoiler. What I have tried to do is change your experience with recycling by giving you some welcome insight into the process. Because in business, as in life, what you don’t know can hurt you, and that really is a spoiler. FBA

Kevin McKay is the Manager of Medical and Technical Sales for Mid-States Recycling and Refining. He can be reached at 847-298-0010 or by email at [email protected]