Coming soon to a funeral near you: Plastic caskets

GREENVILLE, Mich. — Two Greenville companies are joining forces to provide a wide selection of innovative and lower-cost casket options for grieving families.

Beginning in June, Commemorative Casket USA will begin production of its injection-molded thermoplastic caskets, becoming what's believed to be the first casket line in the world to offer exterior graphics combined with luxurious interiors. Both companies are based in the Clarion Technologies building in Greenville.

"As far as we know, we're the only ones doing this," said John Brownlow, chief operating officer for Clarion Technologies Inc. "This is definitely different. We're very excited."

W. Craig Dolby, vice president of marketing and sales at Commemorative Caskets, said metal, wood and granite currently make up most of the casket market.

The Commemorative Casket USA line was unveiled for the first time March 10-12 at the International Cemetery, Cremation and Funeral Association Convention in San Antonio. Dolby said many funeral home directors were intrigued by the plastic caskets, featuring top-of-the-line graphics that imitate the look of real wood, colorful granite, paint or even camouflage.


"Basically, all the caskets (at the funeral show) looked the same," Dolby said. "Baby boomers are coming along, and they want choices."

The graphics for Commemorative Caskets are made and applied with the same techniques used to make fake wood paneling in automobiles.

Dolby and Brownlow have spent the last year researching the market they intend to reach with their caskets. They already have some orders for their products.

Production of 12 to 16 different design models will begin in June.

Dolby said men have shown more interest in the wood and camouflage designs, while women appreciate the colorful granite options. Brownlow said plans are in the works to offer even more graphic options for caskets.

Jeff Marshall, director of Marshall Funeral Homes of Greenville, said he remembers when another casket company tried to sell plastic caskets more than a dozen years ago.

"We used to sell some of those before, but they got too fancy and they priced themselves out of the market," Marshall said. "They were nice-looking caskets, but they were more than the competition."

Marshall believes his customers would be interested in the thermoplastic caskets if they were available at "a reasonable rate."


"If the price is right on them, people will buy them," he said, adding that the 35 percent recyclable construction would reach the consumers who want to "go green."

Brownlow said customers should expect Commemorative Caskets to "be competitive" with today's common painted eight-gauge metal caskets, though customization options could vary the price. He said they would definitely be cheaper than solid wood or granite caskets.

Since the caskets are made with injection-molded plastic, they won't rust and will outlast wood or metal caskets.

The product line also will feature a wide variety of interior fabric and color options, which have been developed and supplied in collaboration with Tiedmann-Bevs Industries of Richmond, Ind. The luxurious interior options are normally offered in the most expensive casket lines, but Commemorative Caskets hopes to offer them at a price everyone can afford.

"It's all about presentation of the body," Dolby said. "And our warranty is forever — the same as anyone else."


Information from: The Daily News,

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