Ask the Cremation Doctor

The “Greening” of Cremation, Part IV
August 13, 2010, 1:58 pm
Filed under: Green Cremation, Technical Issues

New cremation technology is emerging in more affordable designs. This technology can decrease the use of fossil fuels in the combustion system and decrease emission from the cremation process –  both are a bonus to our environment.

Matthews M-Pyre™ (ILC – intuitive logic controls) is an automated control system that doesn’t require any guesswork on the part of the crematory operator. Industry professionals know there are significant variables in the types of cremation containers. Not only do the materials differ widely, but the weight can range from 7 to 170 pounds. The same situation applies to the cases. We receive human remains ranging from 60 to 600 pounds and those same bodies have varying fat tissue percentages from 4% to 40%. All these variables (and more!) impact the cremation process and the decisions operators have to make.

M-Pyre only requires the operator to answer four basic questions (case number of the day, gender, weight and type of case) and the ILC system automatically establishes the settings for the most efficient production cycle. This reduces the opportunity for operator error which in turn will reduce the amount of emissions from the cremation equipment, another win-win for everyone involved.

The M-Pyre system can be added to the most new and existing cremation systems for costs that are well within reason for most North American crematories. For more information, click here.

The “Greening of Cremation” Part III
August 12, 2010, 12:52 pm
Filed under: Green Cremation, Technical Issues

Opacity Controls
The last post stressed the importance of controlling the temperature in the secondary chamber. Closely related, another thing that keeps cremation equipment running clean involves monitoring the opacity of the final stack emissions. If everything is running properly and the temperature of the after chamber is on target at 1400˚F (670˚C), there should be no visible smoke coming from the stack. When things get out of whack, particulates increase causing the emissions to “thicken up” and become visible.

Opacity controls have optical sensors that can be positioned in the stack to watch for these excess particulates and give the operator a head’s-up when something is amiss. Some advanced systems can take corrective action adjusting the fuel/air mix and solving the problem sans an operator in a matter of seconds.  

The State of Florida recently adopted the requirement of opacity controls on all new cremation equipment beginning early 2007.  The good news is that these systems can be added to most existing and older designs for reasonable cost to the crematory owners.

The “Greening” of Cremation, Part II
August 11, 2010, 2:01 pm
Filed under: Green Cremation, Technical Issues

To continue the post from August 10th, we were examining how most modern cremation equipment is generally earth-friendly. If you are in possession of old equipment, especially the inline models devoid of a secondary chamber, little can be done to make it run as efficiently as the newer retort-style models with the hot hearth and high retention time. While it is best to upgrade to a newer system, there are a couple other tweaks that one can make. Whether your equipment is old or new, make sure you have adequate temperature controls.

Temperature Control
Adequate and steady control of the secondary chamber temperature of the secondary chamber is critical for the proper operation of cremation equipment. Too low and there will be unwanted emissions from the exhaust stack, too high and these unwanted emissions increase even more. So what is “just right”?

Extensive environmental testing conducted jointly by the USEPA and CANA, the Cremation Association of North America, proved to be invaluable in solving this debate amongst environmental professionals. The graph shown depicts results from over 1300 pages of a USEPA report on crematory environmental operations, shows clearly that 1400˚F (670˚C) is the ideal temperature. Emissions from cremation increased significantly when the secondary chamber temperature was increased from 1400˚F to 1600˚F (870˚C) and then increased again from 1600˚F to 1800˚F.

Temperature control systems, standard on most new cremation systems, can be added or adapted to older and existing cremation equipment for reasonable cost which will eventually pay for it in fuel savings.

The “Greening” of Cremation in North America Pt. I
August 10, 2010, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Green Cremation, Technical Issues

Global warming has been all the rage for quite a few years now, so if worries about the slow and steady increase in global temperature have not yet reached your ears, you may want to consider buying a radio or at least a subscription to a good newspaper. This phenomenon has been linked by many experts to the melting of the polar ice-caps, future extinction of animals and the loss of viable farming for the poorest of the poor.

Getting the word out on this potential threat and delivering calls to action have been through quite an eclectic group that one would not normally expect; politicians and preachers, environmentalists and economists, celebrities and CEOs, scientists and school kids.

The experts and scientists line up on opposing sides of this issue, filled with passion and armed with data. One side claims global warming is man-made, while the other assures it is a natural cycles of the earth as old as time itself. When you strip away the politics and posturing, all we are really talking about is making sure we keep the earth in good shape for future generations.

So what does this have to do with cremation? Well when you burn something, especially something like a carbon-based former life form that can contain chemicals, metals from fillings, artificial joints and other prosthetics, you can bet there will be concern about the final byproducts of its combustion.

Fortunately, North American cremation practices have long been considered environmentally friendly compared to other places around the world. This is due largely in part to the fact that most funeral homes are located in more densely populated city centers. With pressures to reduce smoke and odor to an absolute minimum, our drive to be good neighbors also made us good stewards of the environment as well.

Extensive testing by state, federal and independent agencies has shown time and time again that crematories operate well within the current environmental guidelines. United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) testing resulted in human and animal cremation equipment being eliminated from the list of industries that were covered by the new federal environmental regulations in 2005.

That’s great news, so the burning question now becomes “Should we do more?” Here at Matthews Cremation Division – our answer is a resounding “Yes!” So let’s discuss…

Retention Time
As most industry professionals know, residence (aka retention) time is the amount of time emissions from a cremation are held in the secondary (after chamber) of the cremation equipment. This is done to burn off as much pollutants and particles as possible before the emissions are released into the atmosphere. Suffice to say – the longer the retention time, the better the cleansing. Many states require cremation equipment to retain these gases ½ to 1 second. For most cases, this time is more than adequate.

Most new “hot hearth” cremation equipment designs can provide retention times up to 2 seconds or greater.  Longer retention time not only makes the emissions cleaner, but is also helpful when cremating overweight cases and when tasking cremation equipment to handle multiple cremations in a single day.

If you can’t obtain that kind of retention time because your equipment is obsolete, it’s going to be difficult at best to change anything.  Inline cremators (non-hot hearth) are notorious for high emissions as well as high fuel consumption. At this point, replacing your equipment is truly is your best option. 

Getting an entirely new cremator is going to take some time and money, however there are a few things you can do while you are getting your ducks in a row. Temperature control of the secondary chamber and opacity controls also aid in reducing emissions and they can be easily added to old equipment to help improve efficiencies to a degree. Stay tuned for the next installment to learn more.

New BIO Cremation Website Launched!
July 30, 2010, 5:09 pm
Filed under: Green Cremation

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new informational website dedicated solely to BIO Cremation™, a new green alternative to traditional flame cremation. The website exists to educate consumers, legislatures, media networks and industry professionals about the national adoption within the funeral service, environmental benefits for the community and meaningful “end of life” alternative for arranging families.

BIO Cremation is based on the alkaline hydrolysis process, an earth-friendly, water-based process that minimizes emissions (particulates, greenhouse gases, carbon monoxide, mercury, etc.) admitted into the atmosphere. “There are a lot of myths and misconceptions involving the BIO Cremation process”, says Steven Schaal, President of Matthews Cremation North American Division. “This website will help to dispel those myths and keep our focus on becoming good stewards of the environment when it comes to end of life decisions.”

The first BIO Cremation crematory is schedule for installation at the Anderson-McQueen Funeral Home in St. Petersburg Florida pending final permits.

Simple Tweaks to Make Your Cremation Operations Earth-Friendly
July 22, 2010, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Green Cremation | Tags: , ,

Our fearless leader Paul Rahill provides several tips on making your cremation equipment environmentally friendly. Here are several environmental practices you can adopt unto your current cremation operations.

  1. Increase retention time will allow the cremation equipment to increase the cleansing action, which in turn will lower emissions. Replace or upgrade current, outdated cremation equipment is the best route to a greener environment.
  2. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and CANA recommend that the ideal secondary chamber temperature is 1,400 degrees F. You can add or adapt temperature control systems to older and existing cremation equipment for added suel savings.
  3. Configure opacity controls, optical scanning devices that monitor emmissions, to take action if they detect unwarranted occurences (i.e. visible smoke in the stack). Most existing cremation equipment in crematories can be retro fitted for a reasonable cost.
  4. Oxygen control allows for improved performance and costs. Controlling oxygen reduces emissions and cuts fuel consumption.

Fifteen Seconds of Fame
July 21, 2010, 1:18 pm
Filed under: The Fun in Funeral

We recently received a fleeting moment of fame on the silver screen when our cremation equipment was spotted in the summer action flick, The A-Team. Based on the TV series of the same name, the movie makes use in a scene where the character of Col. John ‘Hannibal’ Smith is placed in a cremation chamber while faking his own demise. The equipment featured is the old analog control panel now being slowly replaced by the new M-Pyre touch screen, but the Matthews name is clearly seen.

“Don’t blink. It’s only a five second scene at best, but companies pay big bucks for product placement in movies so it’s nice to get some free screen time” says Steven Schaal, President of our North American Division.

Most industry insiders will wince at the glaring mistakes related to this scene – the absence of a container, the toe-tag stating “heart attack” instead of “cardiac arrest” and the doubt that anyone would be able to survive the initial blast of the burners let alone be able to break open the door from the inside.  It all makes for good fun though – especially if you are a fan of the original TV series. The A-Team producers made use of several other real devices including a PhysioControl LifePak 7 defibrillator to jumpstart a car and real Mecta SR1 ECT (a device used to induce a very mild seizure under controlled conditions) to zap James “Howling Mad” Murdock.

With a little luck, they’ll make a sequel in a few years and show off the new M-Pyre touch screen.