Alkaline hydrolysis (death custom)
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[update], about 1,000 people had chosen this method for the disposition of their remains in the United States.
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, 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.
Alternative terms for Resomation or alkalyne hydrolysis have used in the press or by Resomation Limited have included:
- Green cremation
This process is condemned by the New York State Catholic Conference, who stated that the human body has intrinsic dignity and must be treated with respect and reverence, and this process does not show sufficient respect for those beliefs.
Alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposition of human remains is currently legal in seven states, including Florida, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon. 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. 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:
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.
- "UK firm: Don't burn bodies, boil them", Physorg News, 2007-08-06
- The Groovy Green website is one example of such sites.
- See the October 2007 Newsletter of Worthing Crematorium, operated by Worthing Borough Council in West Sussex, England.
- Bowdler, Neil (2011-08-31), "New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home", BBC News
- Briggs, Bill (2011-01-18). "When you're dying for a lower carbon footprint". MSNBC.com. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
- "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
- Christianson, Adriana (November 28, 2012). "Liquifying bodies new cremation technique offered in Saskatchewan". News Talk 650 CKOM (Rawlco Communications). Retrieved 2012-11-28.
- New in mortuary science: Dissolving bodies with lye - ABC News
- New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home - BBC News