As cremation has continued to rise in popularity, companies have been finding ways to make improvements to the longstanding process. Advancements in technology have allowed us to be more efficient while lessening our impact on the environment. Alkaline hydrolysis and cremation recycling are two very important aspects of the funeral industry that are allowing us to do just that. They are both good for the earth and can add major value to your business.
Alkaline Hydrolysis is a method of final disposition that is available for both our human and pet loved ones. Alkaline hydrolysis is a water-based dissolution process for human remains that uses alkaline chemicals, heat, and sometimes agitation and/or pressure, to accelerate natural decomposition. Human remains are placed in a chamber with an alkaline chemical and water mixture and may be subjected to heat, pressure and/or agitation. Depending upon the equipment and the temperature employed, the process many take 3.5 to 18 hours, leaving bone fragments, prosthetics and a sterile liquid. The liquid is considered a sterile wastewater, which is discharged with the permission of the local water treatment authority and in accordance with federal, state, provincial and local laws.
“It is the same process that occurs as part of nature’s course when a body is laid to rest in the soil. A combination of gentle water flow, temperature, and alkalinity are used to accelerate the breakdown of organic materials,” explains Samantha Sieber, Vice President of Research with Bio-Response Solutions. “Small businesses that could never incorporate a flame crematory can offer alkaline hydrolysis on-site. The equipment doesn’t have any of the nuisances that town planners are concerned about with flame cremation. Because there is no visible stack, odor, noise, or emissions, businesses in residential and historic areas are able to fully care for loved ones on-site,” she continues.
Additionally, cremation recycling helps conserve our natural resources, reduce landfill utilization and create jobs. Cremation recycling answers the critical question of what crematories should do with metal byproducts left over after cremation. In the past, many crematoriums saw disposing of medical implants, casket hardware, and dental materials as an inconvenient cost rather than an added value. In fact, properly recycling these materials with a trusted metal refiner is not only ethically and environmentally beneficial; it’s also a great way for funeral homes and crematories to generate additional funds that can be used for capital improvements, charitable causes, or other investments that best align with their business model.
Learn more about how to lessen your funeral home or crematory’s environmental impact with alkaline hydrolysis and how cremation recycling can benefit the earth and your business in this feature editorial. FBA
Alkaline Hydrolysis Expert
“We make equipment that belongs in a funeral home,” begins Samantha Sieber, Vice President of Research with Bio-Response Solutions. We also make certain types of equipment that belong in an institution with industrial utilities and a full-time maintenance staff – but that is not what we sell to funeral homes. Our systems are simple in design, easy to install, easy to own and maintain, and we give phenomenal support to our customers. Our customers can reach us, personally, 24/7. We have diagnostics that allow us to support our customers all over the world. We have the knowledge we’ve gained over the past decade through supporting over 150 small businesses with their AH systems (primarily pet),” Sam continues.
Bio-Response Solutions lets customers do what they need to do – which is run their business, serve families, enjoy their time at home, and have reliable equipment that performs as expected.
“Our family is very passionate about making a meaningful impact through what we build. We are always on the cutting edge of innovation, and always on the side of environmental progress. Our equipment is state of the art, yet simple. We don’t put anything on our machines that the end user can’t understand and maintain. We know who we’re building our equipment for, and why it’s important to them. We want every customer’s story to be a success, and we continue to learn from our customers and grow the support we provide for our community of operators. Over half of our equipment is overseas – and I think our philosophy on how to build and support equipment makes this possible,” Sam says emphatically.
In addition, Bio-Response provides zoning/city support and fully handles the water permitting. They have successfully navigated this task for over 200 facilities.
“We provide excellent training and support for our equipment. We also provide marketing support with videos, brochures, and posters. We have a graphic designer on staff, as well as an environmental health and safety specialist. We also go above and beyond to help our customers be successful and safe,” concludes Sam.
Alkaline Hydrolysis Expert
The Cremation Association of North America defines cremation as the mechanical and/or thermal or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments. Cremation includes the processing and usually includes the pulverization of the bone fragments. This definition covers a variety of technologies that may be applied in order to achieve reduction to bone fragments, including traditional flame-based cremation, calcination and alkaline hydrolysis.
“The technology is proven and safe but takes more time than traditional cremation to complete one process. This has proven difficult for some business models. I hope that technology continues to improve by shortening the cycle,” says Barbara Kemmis, Executive Director at CANA. “Do not underestimate the general public’s and media interest in alkaline hydrolysis. This is a proven technology that is here to stay,” she adds.
“Each business owner has a unique set of experience in which they operate, so ultimately this is a business decision. And they need to believe in the process in order to sell it effectively. CANA member practitioners who offer alkaline hydrolysis have reported multiple reasons for doing so including, the inability to obtain permits for a flame-based cremator and the desire to offer a new or greener option for families. CANA staff reports that consumers are requesting it. I fielded more questions from reporters about alkaline hydrolysis in 2018 than any other topic,” states Barbara.
CANA is all things cremation and has been serving the death care profession for over 100 years. Membership in CANA brings visibility to consumers seeking alkaline hydrolysis through their provider directory, as well as the remainder of their member benefits.
CANA offers alkaline hydrolysis content geared toward consumers and practitioners online and in person.
“CANA remains the only death care association to offer content and services related to alkaline hydrolysis for a variety of audiences,” emphasizes Barbara.
Alkaline Hydrolysis Expert
“Water Cremation gives families another option. For years, there was only the choice between burial and flame-based cremation. What we have learned is that many people who would choose flame cremation for themselves or a loved one do not like the aspect of fire. People are typically more comfortable with the thought of water and see this as being gentler and like its more environmentally friendly credentials. The funeral industry continues to evolve and modernize with people looking for more choices. We believe alkaline hydrolysis is the next phase in this evolution and would help the industry improve its environmental credentials and meet the capacity challenges of a rapidly growing population by using innovative new water technologies,” explains Nicki Mikolai, Sales Manager with Resomation America.
Nicki also points out that a recent study proved that alkaline hydrolysis has a carbon footprint over 7 times less than flame creation and over 3 times less than burial. It also requires significantly less energy in the form of electricity and gas, and releases no airborne harmful particulates, nitrous oxides, or mercury.
“Our revolutionary Resomator S750 is not only the first, safest, fastest and most validated system on the market but allows the client to enter a relationship with a company that has a high level of expertise and experience to support them through the various stages of being able to offer this new service. We now have a US office in Minnesota that can offer advice, assistance with facility design and layout, final commissioning and training. We also offer comprehensive field service and remote diagnostics,” Nicki elaborates.
Resomation America’s feedback from clients has been fascinating and thought-provoking.
“For example, Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center in Stillwater, MN, anticipated the biggest reason for choosing alkaline hydrolysis to be the environmental side. However, the larger reason has actually been the people who don’t like the fire component, seeing this as a gentler alternative. Another aspect I would say is that not all Alkaline Hydrolysis machines are the same. For instance, you do not just buy a car as they vary in technology, cost, performance, ease of use, aesthetics, speed and safety – the same goes for Alkaline Hydrolysis machines,” concludes Nicki.
Cremation Recycling Expert
Aside from paying top dollar for dental scrap metals and delivering an unparalleled level of customer service, Garfield Refining Company helps their clients maximize precious metal recovery by providing complimentary tools like automated cremulators and urn filtration devices. These tools maximize precious metal recovery and streamline the metal sorting process so crematory operators can be more productive and effective.
“Before a funeral director or crematory chooses a company to refine with, they should conduct research to ensure that they are getting the best value and customer service during the entire recycling process,” explains Michael Sherbekow, Head of Sales and Purchasing with Garfield Refining Company.
“Garfield Refining Company has been refining precious metals for more than 126 years and our staff has over 200 years of combined experience. We provide the tools, equipment, and education that crematoriums need to maximize their precious metal yield and payouts from recycling. We have industry-leading customer service and are available to help clients during the recycling process from start to finish. Garfield is not a broker or middle-man and scientifically evaluates your metal in-house, so you know exactly what it’s worth,” states Michael.
Garfield is committed to creating long-standing relationships, which means providing an easy, streamlined, and transparent service for their customers, so they know they are getting the best value for their items. Garfield knows metal recycling isn’t a funeral home’s core business, which is why they go above and beyond to make the recycling process as clear and painless as possible.
Garfield does not work off a fixed or speculative pricing model.
“We evaluate your post-cremation metal with scientific equipment, so you know exactly what it’s composed of. This process is transparent, so you can rest assured that you are getting a fair value for your material. In other words, Garfield doesn’t give estimates, they provide detailed and accurate analysis,” adds Michael.
Cremation Recycling Expert
LGS Refining is a full-service precious metal refiner. They provide collection containers, personal account managers, and shipping and disposition services on all metallic remains including pacemakers. They certify the complete disposition of each shipment and a Certificate of Recycling is provided. Their services are available with no commitment requirements and at no cost to crematories.
“Each crematory generates post-cremation metallic waste. Recycling of these metals allows for the materials to be eventually repurposed. LGS Refining offers free disposition service and complete destruction, along with a monetary payout for all materials received. Crematory owners are free to decide how the proceeds from their recycling activities are distributed. From charity to hospice donations, employee parties and bonuses, building improvements, new equipment purchases, community outreach programs, the possibilities are endless,” explains Ilian Stefanov, Owner of LGS Refining.
“The post-cremation metallic scrap generated by your company is NOT considered hazardous material by the EPA despite what some trade publication circling around the industry want you to intentionally believe. Fact is, EPA considers crematory metal residues as scrap metal, which is excluded from the definition of hazardous waste. There are no ‘cradle to the grave’ liabilities to crematories. Be aware of companies advertising or promoting this misinformation,” he adds
At LGS, they know it is important for the material to be recycled; as the decomposition of the metallic alloys, if buried or not disposed of properly, can and will become toxic to the environment. The EPA does ask that crematories dispose of this material through means of recycling or refining and not bury the materials. The recycling activity can be very profitable and only minimal quantity is required.
“I would fully encourage crematories to work directly with precious metal refiners and not recyclers or third- party vendors. You could be distorting your profits by as much as 50-80%. Majority of the proceeds are in the dental alloys, in fact, post-cremation metallic dental remains account for as much as 80-90% of the proceeds generated from recycling this material due to the high concentration of Gold, Silver, Platinum and Palladium,” Ilian explains.
Cremation Recycling Expert
“The number one aspect to our approach is transparency. We offer an open-door policy that allows our customers to visit our facility, witness the smelting of their high-value metals and a quick analysis. This is important because it takes away the mystery that surrounds the reported value of the metals that are being turned in for recycling. We also offer a sample of every melt so when a customer cannot visit to witness the process, they can have a third-party assayer verify our results,” says Kevin McKay, Manager with the Cremation Division at Mid-States Recycling and Refining.
Mid-States provides drums and jars for collection and storage. They also cover all shipping and insurance costs. Mid-States recommends a separating processor that will help customers not only with handing back cleaner cremated remains, but by doing so will help them recover the most metal to be recycled.
“To my knowledge – and we have had an industry attorney look into this subject – the federal mandate regarding how to handle post-cremation metals is Code of Federal Regulations 40 (CFR 40). This effectively says the crematory cannot simply bury the metal or dump it in a landfill. It needs to be properly recycled. It is our opinion that the metals should be handled only by EPA-permitted facilities and by no means should the metals go through a middleman. This is why, it’s so important to perform some due diligence on the company you choose to work with,” explains Kevin.
Kevin also advises that funeral homes should always be leery of companies offering ‘free’ products or services in exchange for the rights to the funeral homes metal.
“Cremation recycling is worth significantly more than most think. This is important to know so that you can be certain the ‘recycler’ isn’t charging too much (far more than their published rate) and that you are getting the maximum amount back. Really thorough reporting should accompany every lot of metal sent to be recycled. Even if you’re donating the money (or especially since) you want to make sure the most is going there, not the recycler,“ states Kevin. “It is also not true that all recyclers operate the same way. Simple questions should be asked like whether or not you are allowed to visit their facility, or even witness the smelting and analysis of their metal,” Kevin further explains.
Cremation Recycling Expert
Noble offers free products, equipment, and on-site training for crematorium operators to help make their job collecting metals easier and faster. Noble Metal Solutions has an open-door policy and invites their customers to witness their melts. Noble offers free products and equipment to help crematory operators identify and remove all metals prior to the cremated remains going into the urns. Additionally, Noble will purchase needed crematory equipment to be paid over time using the proceeds from the metals recycled.
“Our mission is to educate crematory owners on what kinds of metals they accumulate, the value of those metals, and how to extract and recycle them properly,” says Dan Wokoun, Executive Vice President with Noble Metal Solutions. “Our products and services, besides being free of charge, will help streamline this aspect of the cremation process and let directors and cremationists get back to what is most important, taking care of the families. Our transparency is what sets us apart from our competition,” Dan adds.
Noble serves the death-care profession by applying accurate and transparent refining procedures that customers are invited to witness. Noble provides detailed refining reports including incoming weights, insurance liability protection along with a complete chain of custody. Their employee turnover rate is very low, ensuring consistent and reliable service to their crematory customers.
“Like all businesses, not all the providers are created equally. A crematory should ask their recycling company if they can come witness their melts and or tour their facility. Another aspect about cremation recycling, that crematories don’t usually pay attention to, is the reporting of incoming weights of their non-ferrous metals such as dental alloys. Many recycling companies only show the final results leaving out the steps they utilized to get the final results. If your crematory does not separate the non-ferrous metals, you are relying on the recycling company to report those weights. A crematorium should receive a detailed report showing every troy oz of metal that was sent,” urges Dan.
Noble Metal Refining believes that cremation recycling should be handled with the same dignity and respect that funeral homes already demonstrate to decedents and their families.
“We understand that cremation recycling might not always be a top priority for crematories but to us it’s our passion,” Dan concludes.