Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Recycling the Heat of Cremation Does Not Equal Burning the Dead as Fuel

Casket enters crematory retort

In yesterday's Miller & McCune Environment article by Justin Nobel, the same old misconception about recycling the heat of cremation was trotted out and reinforced for dramatic effect.   

"Imagine a swimming pool heated by your dead grandmother. The town council in Redditch, England, recently approved a plan that will make this possible. "

Unfortunately, the laudable and important work of harnessing the wasted heat that results from increasing numbers of cremations in the US and in Europe continues to be hindered by the idea that the dead are used as fuel.  In fact, the fuel is natural gas, used to reduce human remains into water vapor, carbon and skeletal remains.  This combustion is already taking place all over the world, and that heat contributes only to warming an already overheated planet, while only miles away, coal is burned to produce electricity.

Using the waste heat of cremation to produce electricity for heating homes in Sweden, warming swimming pools in the UK, or cooling offices in Taipei results only in a more sustainable world for the living.  By allowing the natural gas waste heat to heat the pool, we can keep  Grandmother's cremation from damaging the environment. 

For more on this subject, read:

1 comment:

Charles Cowling said...

As an inhabitant of Redditch I have followed this carefully. Negative responses have been of the 'death panel' type in their sensational malevolence and ignorance. The heat has to be taken out in order that the gases can be filtered. It is removed by a heat exchanger. That heat has to go somewhere. It is created by the fuel necessary to burn a dead human body which, since it is 70% water, does very little to contribute to its own incineration.

We had some who tried to make a hullabaloo of all this in Redditch (as if the dead were being pitched into a furnace under the pool, or somesuch). The pragmatic populace at the public meeting scrutinised the process and pronounced themselves entirely happy with it propriety. Those who dissented were a very few religious eccentrics.

We often forget how pragmatic most people are. In the UK re-used graves are proving very popular, too!

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