CCMS Grad Pioneers New Disposition System

When funeral home owner/operator Jeff Edwards recently purchased the first production unit of the alkaline hydrolysis disposition system manufactured by Bio-Response Solutions, he had done his homework. He knew he was making a responsible investment for his business, his families and the environment. He knew he was selecting a process with long-term sustainability. What he may not have predicted is the interest it has stimulated among his colleagues who had heard about this revolutionary disposition process and were eager to learn more from his firsthand experience.

A year ago, Edwards began researching options for bringing dispositions in-house to Edwards Funeral Service in the German Village neighborhood of Columbus, Ohio. Although cremation was an obvious option, he recognized its disadvantages. Many of his families were resistant to fire-based disposition. Because of the Environmental Protection Agency's increasingly strict regulations on mercury emissions, a mercury scrubber retrofit would significantly drive up his expenditure. His own commitment to the environment added to his reluctance to purchase a crematory retort.

He wanted an option that families would embrace and which made good business sense, so he expanded his research to include alkaline hydrolysis. He remembered hearing of this "water process" while a student at the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science, where he was taught to think outside the box. The more he learned about alkaline hydrolysis disposition – the only new method of final disposition in more than 130 years – the more he recognized it met his needs. After speaking with Joe Wilson, CEO of Bio-Response Solutions, he felt he was dealing with the right provider.

"Bio-Response Solutions was the only manufacturer with a safe, low-temperature, no-pressure system," Edwards point out. "Those features are important for the safety of my staff, not to mention the huge capital and long-term maintenance inherent with high-temperature, high-pressure vessels, pumps, seals and steam boilers." They were also the only manufacturer who had equipment that was beyond the prototype and testing phases.

Yet would families accept and choose this revolutionary option? "I discussed alkaline hydrolysis disposition with nearly 100 cremation families last year and not one objected to it," reports Edwards. "When some families asked whether it was possible to delay their planned cremation until alkaline hydrolysis is available, I realized this method of final disposition could be not just an additional option, but a preferred option over fire-based cremation."

Bio-Response Solutions' CEO has been developing and fine-tuning low-temperature alkaline hydrolysis for nearly a decade. "We have worked to perfect the process and have developed a number of innovations that allow it to be equal or superior to high-temperature, high-pressure systems," notes Joe Wilson. "We have superior geometry in our patent-pending tip technology. We are cleaner after each cycle and use fewer energy resources. We believe we provide independent and family-owned funeral homes a practical, affordable opportunity to set up their own disposition operations, allowing them to compete with large corporate operators."

Edwards likes that it is a natural and more dignified method than cremation. "Alkaline hydrolysis is a clean, green, natural process which mimics the natural decomposition of the body in a matter of hours, achieving the same result that would take months or years with Mother Nature," he comments. "There is no fire, no flame, no destructive burning of the body. It's a more dignified option."

The installation of the Bio-Response alkaline hydrolysis disposition system for Edwards Funeral Service was a simple process. Limited floor space was required. Existing utilities were sufficient. "Jeff's machine was delivered, installed and running its first disposition all in the same day," notes Wilson.

Any surprises now that the unit is installed and in service? "The only surprise for me has been the ease with which this disposition method is accomplished," reports Edwards. "The equipment is highly automated and comes with a 10-inch color touchscreen computer. You simply key in the weight of the body, the time length of the process and press the 'Start' button. At the end of the process, remove the bones from the clean, sterile, stainless steel basket and the system is ready for the next disposition. It has been a complete success."

Based on his research and firsthand experience, Edwards projects that alkaline hydrolysis will become the preferred method of disposition over cremation within the next decade. "Alkaline hydrolysis is a 'game changer' in the funeral industry. I think it has the potential to replace cremation as a form of disposition, maybe as soon as in the next 5-10 years," he predicts. "The industry will be surprised how accepting the public is."

The reaction of families has been extremely positive. "Once this method is properly described to families and their questions honestly answered, I have yet to find a family that didn't choose alkaline hydrolysis over cremation," says Edwards. "I even had a direct burial family change to alkaline hydrolysis disposition after picking up a brochure in our conference room about it."

Edwards understands that doing his homework brought him to the best decision. "I put the same amount of effort into selecting my alkaline hydrolysis equipment as I put into selecting a mortuary college 10 years ago," remarks Edwards. "I chose the Cincinnati College of Mortuary Science for its rich history, Midwestern values and hands-on approach to learning. Looking back, I don't think I could have selected a better place to receive my mortuary education. Looking forward, I don't think I could have selected a better provider of alkaline hydrolysis technology."

Charlie Kanet, president Kanet Advertising
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