Many contribute the rise in popularity of cremation to the Great Recession, as strapped older Americans are faced with the staggering costs associated with end-of-life care. The average cremation costs just $2,570, a fraction of the $7,750 that many will pay for body burial.
The eco-friendly elderly are opting for the ashes, when considering that traditional burial — in addition to requiring a sizable plot — involves taking a body full of embalming chemicals and sticking it in the ground, which will then need to be properly maintained. Forever.
Cremation, which reduces the body to biodegradable mineral ash, is friendlier for the environment. And some specialized crematoriums have begun offering what’s known in the industry as “green cremation,” or “water-based cremation.” This new process, offered by only two crematoriums in the country, uses a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, in a process known as alkaline hydrolysis, to dissolve human remains — producing the same familiar ash that flames do. Four out of five families, when given the choice, have opted for green cremation.
It doesn’t stop at the flames
Bodies still cremated traditionally, using fire, require an extra step before being handed back to the family. While flames can do most of the work, the ashes must then be pulverized in a special machine, to prevent any potentially alarming chunks of bone or tooth from making an unwelcome appearance at a scattering ceremony.