Alkaline hydrolysis (death custom)

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Alkaline hydrolysis is a process for the disposal of human remains, which its creator states is more ecologically favorable than cremation. The process is being marketed worldwide as an alternative to the traditional options of burial or cremation. As of August 2007, about 1,000 people had chosen this method for the disposition of their remains in the United States.[1]

Most sources cite the British company "Resomation Limited" as the driving force behind the procedure; the company has a pending patent on the procedure and owns the international trademark on the word "Resomator". Resomation Ltd. is 65% owned by The Co-operative Group, who also own the largest funeral home business in the UK.

In the alkaline hydrolysis disposal process, the body is placed in a silk bag, itself placed within a metal cage frame. This is then loaded into a Resomator. The machine is filled with a mixture of water and lye, and heated to a high temperature (around 160 °C [320 °F]), but at a high pressure, which prevents boiling. Instead, the body is effectively broken down into its chemical components, which takes about three hours.

The end result is a quantity of green-brown tinted liquid (containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts) and soft, porous white bone remains (calcium phosphate) easily crushed in the hand (although a cremulator is more commonly used) to form a white-colored dust. The "ash" can then be returned to the next of kin of the deceased. The liquid is disposed of either through the sanitary sewer system, or through some other method including use in a garden or green space. This alkaline hydrolysis process is currently being championed by a number of ecological campaigning groups,[2] for using less energy and producing less carbon dioxide and pollutants than cremation. It is being presented as an alternative option at some British crematorium sites.[3]

Alkaline hydrolysis has recently been adapted by the pet industry. A handful of companies in North America offer the procedure to pet owners as an alternative to pet cremation. Southern California-based Peaceful Pets Aquamation has established partnerships with veterinarians and animal hospitals across Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties to make its services available to pet owners across the region. The company has performed the process on companion animals ranging from domestic cats and dogs to sheep and exotic tigers.[4]

Other Names[edit]

Alternative terms for Resomation or alkalyne hydrolysis have used in the press or by Resomation Limited have included:

  • Aquamation
  • Bio-Liquifaction
  • Bio-Cremation
  • Green Cremation
  • Water Cremation

Religious views[edit]

In Christian countries and cultures, cremation has historically been discouraged, but now in many denominations it is accepted.[5]

The Roman Catholic Church permits ordinary cremation of bodies as long as it is not done in denial of the beliefs in the sacredness of the human body or the resurrection of the dead.[6]

When alkaline hydrolysis was proposed in New York state the New York State Catholic Conference condemned the practice, stating that hydrolysis does not show sufficient respect for the teaching of the intrinsic dignity of the human body.[7]

Legal status[edit]

United States[edit]

Alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposition of human remains is currently legal in seven states,[8] including Florida, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon.[9] The process was legal in New Hampshire but a one year moratorium was imposed to allow the technology claims to be studied and validated before public use.[10] In Minnesota, Mayo Clinic uses an alkaline hydrolysis process to dispose of donated bodies. In Florida, a commercial resomator has been installed at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St. Petersburg.

As MSNBC wrote:[9]

In resomation, a body is placed in a steel chamber along with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide. Air pressure inside the vessel is increased to about 145 pounds per square inch, and the temperature is raised to about 356 degrees Fahrenheit. After three or more hours, the corpse is reduced to bones that are then crushed into a fine, white powder. That dust can be scattered by families or placed in an urn. Dental fillings are separated out for safe disposal.


Saskatchewan approved the process in 2012, becoming the first province to do so.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "UK firm: Don't burn bodies, boil them", Physorg News, 2007-08-06 
  2. ^ The Groovy Green website is one example of such sites.
  3. ^ See the October 2007 Newsletter of Worthing Crematorium, operated by Worthing Borough Council in West Sussex, England.
  4. ^ "New ‘petuary’ liquifies deceased pets, green alternative to cremation". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  5. ^ Gassmann, Günther; Larson, Duane H.; Oldenburg, Mark W. (4 April 2001). Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism. Scarecrow Press. p. 48. ISBN 9780810866201. Retrieved 22 April 2014. Cremation was unheard of from the time Charlemagne outlawed it (784) until the 17th century. At that point, the practice was urged primarily by those opposed to the church, and for a long time cremation was forbidden by Roman Catholicism and practiced only reluctantly by Protestants. Recently, these strictures have eased, and more and more churches have established columbaria or memorial gardens within their precincts for the reception of the ashes by the faithful. 
  6. ^ "Catholics and Cremation: Questions and Answers from the Bishops of New York State". New York State Catholic Conference. December 6, 2002. 
  7. ^ "NY Catholic conference opposes 'chemical digestion' of human remains". Mar 25, 2012. 
  8. ^ Bowdler, Neil (2011-08-31), "New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home", BBC News 
  9. ^ a b Briggs, Bill (2011-01-18). "When you're dying for a lower carbon footprint". Retrieved 2011-03-01. 
  10. ^ "SB332 (2008): prohibiting the disposal of human remains through a reductive process utilizing alkaline hydrolysis in New Hampshire and establishing a committee to examine the practice of resomation.", New Hampshire Liberty Alliance, 2008-02-21 
  11. ^ Christianson, Adriana (November 28, 2012). "Liquifying bodies new cremation technique offered in Saskatchewan". News Talk 650 CKOM (Rawlco Communications). Retrieved 2012-11-28. 
  12. ^ Truesdale, Jevon (2014-11-18). "Aquamation Industries (North America)". Aquamation Industries NA. Jevon Truesdale. Retrieved 2014-03-14. 

External links[edit]