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Gas Pains

Tom grew up in Milwaukee, bartended in Wauwatosa in the '70s and moved here in 1984.

Commentary, observations and musings about the outdoors, life in general and maybe Tosa politics and personalities will be the order of the day. He savors a lively debate as much as terrific cooking.

A Hot, Dusty, Lonely, Job

Cremation, Funeral Practices, Matthews Cremation

Ordinarily if you hear the term afterburner - what might come to mind is a fuel guzzling kick-start to a fighter jet.

Crematoriums also use an afterburner in order to provide a nice clean EPA-approved burn.

Just the other day the staff here at Gas Pains took a half-day-off from the day job to visit a modern, high-tech crematorium.

This is a Matthews cremation chamber. 

According to their website Matthews is the global leader in the design and manufacture of Human and Animal Cremation Equipment meeting standards of Underwriters Laboratory (UL), Canadian Standards Association (CSA) and European Conformity (CE).

According to the National Funeral Directors Association more and more of the deceased are choosing cremation for the disposition of their mortal remains.  With the average cost of a traditional funeral (including vault) hovering around $7,800 - spending a grand or less on a cremation is a sound money decision.

Lean times of the Great Recession notwithstanding cremations have already been trending upwards.  In the past decade alone the US rate of cremation has risen from 25% to 37%.  The projected rate for 2015 is 46% and is expected to climb to 59% by 2025.

Given the vast number of aging baby boomers I smell a hot investment opportunity in case anyone wants to partner with me and install one of these in my garage.

I'd bet that you are just burning to know how this device works. 

It's basically a combustion box (think VERY large gas fireplace) that except for loading and removal is completely automated.

After inserting the deceased feet-first into the chamber - head-first if you weigh more than 300 pounds - the controlled burn at 1650 degrees Fahrenheit pretty-much reduces you to a pile of crumbling bone fragments in about 4 hours - usually much less.  

Following a cool-down period those fragments are collected, placed in a tray and sorted through with a big magnet to remove any ferrous metal.  Coins, dental appliances, buttons, rings and knick-knacks are set-aside.

Durable medical implants such as screws, plates and hip implants are easy to locate.

The operator of the chamber offered that breast and penile implants do not burn efficiently.  And if you do not remove pacemakers beforehand they will explode and could damage this expensive piece of equipment.

After the sorting is completed your bone fragments are poured into a processor.

This is nothing more than an industrial-strength blender which reduces you to the consistency of fine, gray sand.

Just like emptying your Weber grill you go into an urn for delivery to your loved ones.

My impression of all of this? 

It was tolerably loud.  A high volume blower was forcing outside air in and another blower was exhausting combustion gases just as quickly.  The burner has a dull roar.  But it's not like you can carry-on a conversation with the customer anyway.  Which makes it lonely.  It can be hot - particularly when you open the door to check on how things are progressing.  And there's grit everywhere.  Seriously - you should shower and clean your eyeglasses afterward.

It's a hot, dusty, lonely job.

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