Gold, silver and platinum nuggets that survive the intense 700 Celsius fires are all that remain after a body is burnt at the Nordheim cremation facility – Switzerland's largest – in Zurich. Approximately 6,000 corpses are cremated here each year.
As of earlier this month, Nordheim has put in place a machine that filters out precious metals from the ashes and the crematorium then sells them to recycling firms for profit.
There has been some debate as to whether the earnings should be returned to the deceased's beneficiaries or go into state coffers. The latter is what is happening. The recycling project is set to earn the city of Zurich 100,000 Swiss francs (€87,700) in revenue each year.
Those being cremated or their representatives can opt out of the program, in which case all the ashes are returned unfiltered to the family of the deceased. One third of all people cremated in September opted in, according to a report by Swiss broadcaster and online news portal SRF.
The only other crematorium in Switzerland to employ the same filtering technique during cremation is in Solothurn, a town situated between Basel and Bern. Since 2013, the Solothurn crematorium has made 40,000 Swiss francs (€35,100) in annual revenue recycling previous metals, according to another report in Swiss daily Blick.
Crematoria in St Gallen, Aarau and Basel are reportedly not set to follow in Zurich's footsteps. “The ashes belong entirely to the relatives, not the crematoria or the state,” Ursula Lauper, a spokeswoman for St Gallen's crematorium, told Swiss daily Blick.