The Greenest Way to Say Goodbye: Choosing Flameless Cremation

Bailee McQueen:  [00:00] Welcome to season two of Anderson‑McQueen’s radio show, “Undertakings.”

John McQueen, President & CEO of Anderson-McQueen, featured here with the Bio-Cremation Unit

[00:05] I’m Bailee McQueen, your guest host for today, and as always on this show, we undertake those subjects that you want to know about.

[00:13] Remember, if there is a specific topic you would like for us to talk about, or if you have a question you would like to ask one of our upcoming guests, please email them to We always do our best to include everyone’s requests if at all possible.

[00:30] Our topic for today is the Greenest Way to Say Goodbye: Choosing Flameless Cremation. Our special guest today is John McQueen with Anderson‑McQueen, who will help us in undertaking this worthy subject. Welcome, John.

John McQueen:  [00:43] Thank you, Bailee, it’s a pleasure to be here with you today.

Bailee:  [00:46] It’s a pleasure to have you, thanks for making the flight out. John, we’ve got several questions for your today. First of all, the most important, what is flameless cremation?

John:  [00:55] That’s a great question, Bailee. Flameless cremation is a gentle, water‑based process that is even more environmentally friendly than our traditional flame cremation process.

[01:06] It offers all the same benefits and flexibility of traditional cremation, but by using a different technology that features a steadily circulating, warm water solution, which uses less energy and creates a smaller carbon footprint.

[01:22] Flameless cremation is really a great option for people who want to honor a loved one in a cleaner and greener way.

Bailee:  [01:29] That sounds very interesting, John. Is it true that Anderson‑McQueen was the first funeral home in Florida to introduce this new cremation process known as bio‑cremation?

John:  [01:41] Bailee, that is true, but actually, we were really the first funeral home in the world to introduce bio‑cremation. This new technology had never been used anywhere, and on a retail‑type basis, it had been used some medical schools for anatomical donation, but had never been used for the consumer. We were the first in the world to introduce this process.

Bailee:  [02:07] First in the world, that is amazing! What prompted Anderson‑McQueen to pursue this new technology?

John:  [02:15] Bailee, today more than ever, families are looking for end of life solutions that are consistent with their everyday values and lifestyles. At Anderson‑McQueen, our family’s commitment to our community extends beyond traditional offerings through the introduction of this environmentally friendly type cremation process.

[02:35] One of the reasons that we chose to do this is because we’re blessed to live in a community of St. Petersburg that was named as the first green city in Florida. We felt that this new technology, this greener technology, would be a great way to further enhance the city’s image as a green city.

[02:56] Secondly, it’s because we’ve always enjoyed at Anderson‑McQueen, being a pioneer within our industry. As such, we constantly are looking for new and better ways to offer families new opportunities, things that may enhance the funeral process for them, and help them to further celebrate that life that had been lived.

Bailee:  [03:21] John, it is true that Anderson‑McQueen is incredibly committed to the community. You can see that in the many community events that it hosts, groups that it sponsors, and almost all of its employees are involved in some community outreach or charity program. Really tremendous.

John:  [03:37] Thank you.

Bailee:  [03:37] I’m getting carried away, I’m sorry. I’ve seen that Anderson‑McQueen promotes this technology as cleaner and greener. Can you please tell us why this technology is cleaner and greener than the traditional flame cremation?

John:  [03:51] I’d be happy to, Bailee. This more eco‑friendly process offers some distinct environmental advantages, even beyond our traditional flame cremation. For example, there’s no vaporized mercury emissions, and no filtration or abatement systems required. What does that really mean?

[04:12] Many times, when you hear about a new crematory being proposed for some neighborhood somewhere, oftentimes, the residents become upset, because they’re worried about mercury emissions being sent up the smokestacks, and those come from the dental amalgams and things that have been used in our mouths over the years as we’ve gotten those dental fillings.

[04:34] They’re worried about those heavy metals like mercury. In this process, there is no mercury emissions, because there are no smokestacks, nothing goes up the stack to potentially maybe cause an environmental issue down the road.

[04:52] Also, caskets are not burned, so that protects our natural resources and produces less CO2. It also has a low carbon footprint, because it uses about four times less carbon impact versus a traditional flame cremation. It reduces the use of the fossil fuels, and minimizes greenhouse gases, and climate change.

[05:17] It’s energy efficient in that it takes about one‑eighth the amount of energy versus our traditional flame cremation. Also, the byproduct or effluent, the liquid portion is safe and has no harmful chemicals or microbial contaminations.

[05:38] As you may be familiar with, on the flame cremation side, if someone has a pacemaker, we have to surgically remove those prior to cremation, because they can explode in our retorts, which can potentially harm the operator. In this case, since there’s no combustion like on the fire side, we do not have to remove the pacemakers which makes it a safer process for our operators.

[06:07] Finally, medical implants like, say, artificial hips, or knees, things like that, are unaffected by the process, and will in fact actually look brand new at the conclusion of the process, and perhaps one day could possibly be recycled.

[06:25] As we look back over those items, I guess you could say it uses less fossil fuel, it’s less greenhouse gas, and there’s zero air pollution. For all those reasons, Bailee, that’s why we call it cleaner, greener cremation process.

Bailee:  [06:43] A green cremation in Florida’s first green city. It sounds like a dream of the future. John, could you please compare this bio‑cremation to the traditional flame cremation process with respect to how the technology works?

John:  [06:58] Bailee, I’d be happy to do that. Let’s start first with the flame cremation, our traditional cremation process for years.

[07:07] As you may know, the body is placed in the cremation chamber. In that, it’s exposed to a direct flame at temperatures of 1,600 to 1,800 degrees. That’s what reduces the body to bone and bone fragment. Upon completion of the cremation process, the bone and bone fragments are then placed in a separate machine called a processor.

[07:30] That processor further pulverizes the bone into the smaller particles that you may be familiar with as being cremated remains. On the flameless side, again, the remains are placed into the cremation chamber.

The Resomator is the actual unit that performs the flameless cremation.

[07:45] Our system is completely computerized, so once we close the door, then the system takes over, and at that point the machine will weigh the loved one’s remains, and determine exactly how much water and potassium hydroxide to add.

[08:03] It’s roughly, to give you an idea, roughly about 95 percent water and about 5 percent potassium hydroxide. At that point then, the machine will heat up the water to a temperature of 350 degrees.

[08:18] However, at the same point, the machine is applying steam pressure inside the machine. The reason we apply steam pressure inside the machine is to prevent the water from boiling, that allows the water just to get hot.

[08:33] It takes about three to four hours for the cremation to occur, but when the process is complete, what is left is bone and bone fragment, just like from the fire side. The only difference is, obviously, the bone is now wet because it’s a liquid process.

[08:51] The bone goes from the cremation chamber into a drying unit that dries the bone. Once the bone is completely dry, it is then placed into the same type processing unit that used on the fire side to reduce it to the smaller particles you may be familiar with as being cremated remains.

[09:09] From there, it is placed into an urn to be returned to the family for whatever final disposition they may have chosen. Probably the only real difference between the two processes is that on the fire side, the cremated remains are typically grey and granular in color.

[09:31] I usually tell people the best example of that would be like kitty litter, it’s about that consistency and color. On the flameless side, it will actually be a very white process, the cremated remains are almost as white as the white shirt that I’m wearing today.

[09:49] Also, it will be a very fine consistency, more like sugar or sand. We actually get back about 25 percent more cremated remains from the flameless side than we do from the flame side. But in both processes, the family will receive an urn containing their loved one’s cremated remains.

Bailee:  [10:11] Thank you for that explanation, John. Just for our listeners out there, you should know that his shirt is quite white.

[10:18] John, I’m sure since there’s all this new technology that Anderson‑McQueen is using, there may be some misconceptions or misinformation out there about this flameless cremation. Would you like to tell our audience about that, and maybe clear some things up?

John:  [10:31] I certainly would, Bailee. Anytime you introduce something new to the world or to the community, oftentimes, there’s some misinformation out there.

[10:40] Probably the biggest misinformation we have in regards to flameless cremation is that people tend to believe that this is like an acid bath or something, but there’s no acid used in this process. Actually, what is used is potassium hydroxide, or KOH.

[10:59] KOH is actually an alkali, which is on the total opposite end of the pH scale than acid. It is also used in numerous health and beauty cosmetics, as well as soft soaps like the liquid hand soaps that you wash your hands with each and every day, and also, cleaning supplies that are commonly used in your home.

[11:23] First off, it is not an acid, it is an alkali. Secondly is the effluent, or the discharge. Again, since it is a water‑based process, obviously, there is at the end of the cycle there is a liquid portion that is discharged to the waste water treatment system.

[11:44] Many families worry that maybe that’s something that’s potentially harmful, but it is not. It is a completely sterile process, that solution is completely sterile, because it’s been exposed to temperatures in excess of 300 degrees for more than an hour.

[12:02] Also sometimes, people worry maybe there’s something humanly identifiable in that solution, but that’s not the case either. This process actually breaks the body down to the very basic amino acids.

[12:17] An amino acid, if you don’t remember from chemistry class, are below the DNA chain. Therefore, there is nothing humanly identifiable in that solution, so it’s a completely safe solution.

[12:31] Then lastly is, we oftentimes get back questions about you’re not going to get cremated remains back, or you don’t get anything back, everything goes down the drain, and that’s not the case. As I mentioned earlier, you will receive back an urn containing your loved one’s cremated remains just like you would have from the fire side.

Bailee:  [12:52] Thank you for clearing that up for us, John. We did have some questions from our listeners that we were hoping you could answer. I believe you already answered this first one, but if you could just indulge us. How long did you say flameless cremation takes again?

John:  [13:11] Sure. The average adult body takes roughly three to four hours, which is about the same amount of time as traditional flame cremation.

Bailee:  [13:15] Thank you, John. Now for our next question, why should I choose flameless cremation over the traditional flame cremation?

John:  [13:22] First and foremost, flameless cremation is an environmental alternative that uses about 30 percent less energy, and releases about 75 percent less carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For those families that are maybe more environmentally conscious, this is oftentimes a choice that they really seem to like because of the environmental considerations.

[13:51] However, I’ll tell you also that probably the other main driving factor behind families choosing flameless cremation is that we have just as many families that come in to make funeral arrangements and tell us, “Well, you know, I’ve always thought about having cremation, but the one thing I never liked was the whole fire aspect. It just seems so violent. If this is water, well, hey, that sounds more gentle. It sounds more like something I’d be interested in.”

[14:23] Although we still have a lot of families that choose traditional flame cremation, these are probably two of the driving factors that have them choose the new flameless cremation process.

Bailee:  [14:35] Thank you, John, that really clears things up for our listeners. We have a couple more questions for you. Can I have a funeral with my body present prior to the cremation?

John:  [14:46] Most definitely. A funeral involving flameless cremation will support a viewing and a visitation with the body present prior to the cremation. We can have the funeral at the funeral home, or at a church, just like as if we were going to have a burial.

[15:03] Everything can be done prior to cremation, and then ultimately, end with cremation. But on that same caveat, if you’re a family that doesn’t want to have a viewing of the remains, we can obviously do the cremation prior to whatever services you may be looking for, also.

Bailee:  [15:21] Thank you for clearing that up, John. Our last question from our listeners, I believe you already answered this one, as well, but if you could just remind us all. What is left following the flameless cremation process?

John:  [15:34] Sure, and as you mentioned, I believe I’ve already addressed that. Once again, just to make sure everybody does realize, that following the cremation process, just like on the fire side, the family will receive back an urn with the appropriate cremated remains inside the urn.

[15:54] That will allow them then to pursue whatever final memorialization options they may like. It could be placement at a cemetery, it could be placement in a niche, it could be taking them home, it could be scattering them in the Gulf of Mexico or some other favorite place. Again, they have all the same final options for memorialization, just like they would have had on the flame process.

Bailee:  [16:18] Thank you so much for your time, John. We have one more question, in that, do you have any final thoughts that you would like to share with us on the subject?

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John:  [16:26] I certainly do, Bailee, thank you. That is that whether you’re choosing flame cremation or flameless cremation, both will support your choice for all types of services that you and your family may desire.

[16:41] They also offer unique flexibility and a variety of memorialization opportunities, but the best part of all is that both options, because at Anderson‑McQueen, we believe in giving families optinos and choices so that you can choose what’s most appropriate for you and for your loved one. Both of these options will allow you to celebrate the life in the way that is most meaningful to you and your loved ones.

Bailee:  [17:10] Thank you so much, John. We know it was a long trip from your house to this office here, but we really appreciate you taking the time out of your day to come on the show, and for our listeners out there, we’re about to wrap things up, thank you for listening to Anderson‑McQueen Funeral Home’s radio show, “Undertakings,” and never miss an episode by subscribing to Undertakings at the iTunes Store, its’ easy and it’s free.

[17:31] In addition to our podcast, you can also download our free funeral app at iTunes or the App Store. Don’t have an iTunes account? You can listen to this show on our blog at That’s, where you can also read a transcription of today’s show.

[17:49] Remember to email us with question and show ideas to I’m Bailee McQueen with Anderson‑McQueen Funeral Homes, and I thank you for listening to Undertakings.

To learn more about Flameless Cremation or to take an Online Tour, visit


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