According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2009 about 37 per cent of Americans were cremated. This is a steep rise from the 25 per cent of Americans cremated in 1999. Burial costs have risen rapidly due to lack of space for burials.
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The casket is placed in the retort (the furnace or crematory), if it is wood the lid is closed, if metal the lid is taken off. A metal tag is placed on the casket to identify whose remains are inside. The furnace is heated to 1760 degrees Celsius. This heat burns everything flammable including smaller bones. What is left is pulverised and turned into ashes, which look like small pebbles.
The furnace is cleared after each cremation but due to the process a small amount of ashes from each body remains in the furnace. This is because a long cooling process would be required and sweeping with a broom would be needed to remove every bit of ash. Consequently, it is likely a small amount of ashes from one body are commingled with that of previous bodies cremated in the same furnace.
Ashes are returned to the funeral director in a bag, these can then be given to the family to be placed in an urn, scattered or used how the family wishes.
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