New 'green cremation' machine opens in Minnesota

By Neil Bowdler
Health and science reporter, BBC News

  • Published
The new Resomation facility in Stillwater, Minnesota
Image caption,
The new facility in Stillwater, Minnesota, has processed the remains of some 20 individuals

A Scottish company has installed its second "Resomation" machine, in the US state of Minnesota.

The new facility in Stillwater, Minnesota, has already processed the remains of 20 individuals.

Resomation involves the dissolution of the deceased in an alkaline solution, and is billed in the US as "green cremation" or "flameless cremation".

A first machine was installed in Florida last year, and has been used on 10 bodies to date.

Sandy Sullivan, chief executive officer of Resomation Ltd, said the machine was running very efficiently after some fine-tuning.

"We've developed the process to a stage where it's running very well. I'm happy with where it is," he told BBC News.

"There has been refinement in software changes and pipe work changes to make it quieter and things like that, but the machine is running very smoothly."

Resomation involves the heating of the remains at some 300C in a pressurised vessel containing a potassium hydroxide solution.

The process takes around three hours and reduces the body to skeletal remains which are processed into a white powder which can be given to the family, like ash from crematoria.

Media caption,

Resomation founder Sandy Sullivan explains how the machine works

Its makers claim it produces a third less greenhouse gas than cremation, uses a seventh of the energy, and allows for the complete separation of dental amalgam for safe disposal.

Mercury from amalgam vaporised in crematoria is blamed for a proportion of airborne mercury emissions worldwide.

The new machine has been fitted at the Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center in Stillwater. The first machine was installed at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg, Florida.

Mr Sullivan is now hoping to secure contracts to supply 10-15 more machines in the US in the near future. Eight American states have so far passed legislation to permit the use of Resomation on their territories.

And while he says there is strong interest in the UK and Europe too - Resomation Ltd is a Glasgow-based subsidiary of Co-operative Funeralcare - similar enabling legislation is still needed.

Final departure

Mr Sullivan said he has found using the "Resomator" on real human remains for the first time "surreal".

He says families have reacted well to the technology.

"They're very positive about the process. One family actually came into the Resomation room because they wanted to kiss the father goodbye.

"The daughter closed the door and started the process. They were absolutely delighted to be able to give their father an exit which they were convinced he would have absolutely loved, being very environmentally attuned."

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