Cremation is an alternative to burial which uses intense heat to transform someone’s body into a fine powder. Unlike traditional burials where the body takes years to break down underground, cremation takes only a few hours. The body is placed inside a coffin or casket before being put into a furnace, known as a cremator. This process reduces the body to a small amount of bones. After this, a special processor grinds the remaining fragments into a powder, commonly known as “ashes”. The ashes are then transferred to either a temporary container or an urn provided by the family.
Cremation takes place in purpose-built facilities, known as Crematoriums. They are usually attached to cemeteries or funeral homes. The burning process occurs inside a cremation chamber or cremator which is a closed industrial furnace built to fit one human body. Inside the chamber temperatures reach between 800 and 1000 degrees Celsius. The heat causes the body to disintegrate to basic compounds of gas, ash and mineral fragments.
It is a legal requirement in Australia that any body undergoing cremation must be placed into a coffin or casket beforehand. All crematoriums require the deceased to be cremated in a combustible, leak-proof, rigid and covered container. This is for occupational health and safety reasons and to allow for the dignified handling of human remains.
Before placing the coffin into the cremation chamber, any pieces of jewellery and other materials which could impact the cremation are removed. Combustible materials or mechanical devices can explode during the process while certain fabrics like leather, latex or vinyl can give off polluting fumes.
The average time for an adult cremation is 90 minutes at a temperature of between 800 and 1000 degree Celsius. From insertion to final cooling the cremation process may take up to four hours. Under Australian law cremations must occur within 48 hours of the funeral service. If cremation does not take place immediately the coffin is placed into a refrigerated holding room.
Most Crematoriums can have the packaged ashes ready for collection within 48 hours. They are placed into a sealed container or an urn provided by the family. Once the ashes are collected you can choose how you want to display them or if you want to scatter them in your loved ones’ favourite location.
Choosing how to preserve your loved ones remains can give you some sense of control during a period of overwhelming grief. These days you can opt for a traditional burial, a natural burial or burial at sea. But as time goes on more Australians are looking to cremation as their preferred method of disposing of a body.
Cremation offers people a chance to put their friends and family to rest in a dignified way without the high costs of a traditional burial. It also gives you a chance to honour your loved ones’ memory after the cremation takes place. Cremated ashes can be kept in a decorative urn or scattered in nature during a memorial service.