Alkaline hydrolysis (body disposal)

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An alkaline hydrolysis disposal system at the Biosecurity Research Institute inside of Pat Roberts Hall at Kansas State University

Alkaline hydrolysis (also called biocremation, resomation,[1][2] flameless cremation, aquamation[3] or water cremation[4]) is a process for the disposal of human and pet remains using lye and heat, and is an alternative to burial or cremation.


The process is based on alkaline hydrolysis: the body is placed in a pressure vessel that is then filled with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, and heated to a temperature around 160 °C (320 °F), but at an elevated pressure, which prevents boiling. Instead, the body is effectively broken down into its chemical components, which takes approximately four to six hours. A lower temperature and pressure may be used, but at a longer duration (98 °C (208 °F), 14 to 16 hours).[5] At the beginning of the process, the mixture is fairly basic, with a pH level of approximately 14; pH drops to 11 by the end, but the final pH level depends on the total operation time and the amount of fat in the body.[6]

Alkaline hydrolysis treatment times of infected animal carcasses[6]
Pathogen Temperature Pressure Time
Microbal 212 °F
100 °C
15 psi
100 kPa
3 hours
TSE 300 °F
149 °C
70 psi
480 kPa
6–8 hours

The 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.[7] To dispose of 1,000 pounds (450 kg), approximately 60–240 US gallons (230–910 l; 50–200 imp gal) of water are used, resulting in 120–300 US gallons (450–1,140 l; 100–250 imp gal) of effluent, which carries a dried weight of 20 pounds (9.1 kg) (approximately 2% of original weight).[6]

This alkaline hydrolysis process has been championed by a number of ecological campaigning groups,[8] for using 90 kWh of electricity,[9] one-quarter the energy of flame-based cremation, and producing less carbon dioxide and pollutants.[1][4] It is being presented as an alternative option at some British crematorium sites.[10] As of August 2007, about 1,000 people had chosen this method for the disposition of their remains in the United States.[11] The operating cost of materials, maintenance, and labor associated with the disposal of 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of remains was estimated at $116.40,[6] excluding the capital investment cost of equipment.

Alkaline hydrolysis has also been adopted by the pet and animal industry. A handful of companies in North America offer the procedure as an alternative to pet cremation.[12] Alkaline hydrolysis is also used in the agricultural industry to sterilize animal carcasses that may pose a health hazard, because the process inactivates viruses, bacteria, and prions causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.[6][13][14]


The process was originally developed as a method to process animal carcasses into plant food, patented by Amos Herbert Hobson in 1888.[5][15][9] In 2005, Bio-Response Solutions designed, sold, and installed the first single cadaver alkaline hydrolysis system at the Mayo Clinic where it was still in use as of 2019.[16] In 2007, a Scottish biochemist, Sandy Sullivan, started a company making the machines, and calling the process (and company) Resomation.[17]

Religious views[edit]

In Christian countries and cultures, cremation has historically been discouraged and viewed as a desecration of God's image, and as interference with the resurrection of the dead taught in Scripture. It is now acceptable to some denominations.[18]

The Roman Catholic Church allows 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.[19] However, the Catholic Church in the United States does not approve of alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposition of human remains. In 2011, Donald Cardinal Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and then chairman of the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), determined it "unnecessarily disrespectful of the human body."[20]

Desmond Tutu, former Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, was aquamated, per his wish.[21]

The Eastern Orthodox Church does not allow cremation.

Judaism forbids cremation as it is not in line with the teachings of respect and dignity due to humans, who are created in God's image.

Islam forbids cremation of the deceased.

When alkaline hydrolysis was proposed in New York state in 2012, 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.[22]

Legal status[edit]


Aquamation based in New South Wales is the only company to currently provide alkaline hydrolysis in Australia, with the remains being used as fertilizer on plantation forests, due to difficulty with obtaining permits from Sydney Water.[23]



The Flemish minister of Interior Administration Bart Somers asked in September 2021 the opinion of an advisory bioethics committee on resomation. The advice, received in November 2021, saw no objections.[24]


Saskatchewan approved the process in 2012, becoming the first province to do so.[25] Quebec and Ontario have also legalized the process.[26] A funeral home in Granby, Quebec, was the first in the province to receive an alkaline hydrolysis machine.[27]


From January 2023, Water Cremation becomes available. The first country in the EU to offer this form of burial.

Handling of the water. When the process is complete the remaining water undergoes further treatment to ensure that it is completely sterile. Analysis is then completed to ensure Water Authority standards are met. Only at this stage is the water recycled back to the Local Authority water treatment plant.


Since 2019, Grupo Gayosso offers alkaline hydrolysis in Baja California.[28]

The Netherlands[edit]

In May 2020, the Health Council of the Netherlands issued an advisory report on the admissibility of new techniques of disposing of the dead. The Council proposed a framework to assess alkaline hydrolysis. It concluded that alkaline hydrolysis is safe, dignified and sustainable.[29] In addition to alkaline hydrolysis, the council also considered human composting as a technique to dispose bodies yet concluded that too little is known about composting and hence it cannot be assessed whether this technique fulfills the conditions.[29] Taking into account the council's recommendations, the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations currently[when?] prepares a law proposal to amend the Corpse Disposal Act. Once the law proposal has been submitted to the Parliament, the democratic process to admit alkaline hydrolysis as body disposal technique can be commenced.

South Africa[edit]

In November 2019, Avbob introduced aquamation in South Africa, following the mutual assurance society's recent introduction of the alkaline hydrolysis process at its Maitland agency in Cape Town.[30] Aquamation has been legal in South Africa ever since. Following his death in December 2021 the body of Archbishop Desmond Tutu was aquamated.[21]

United Kingdom[edit]

A public crematorium operated by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council at Rowley Regis, central England, was the first to receive planning permission to offer the process but in March 2017, the local water utility, Severn Trent Water, refused the council's application for a "trade effluent permit" because there was no water industry standard regulating the disposal of liquefied human remains into sewers.[31][32]

United States[edit]

Alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposition of human remains is currently legal in nineteen states.[4][33][34] Additional rules are pending in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.[35] The process was legal in New Hampshire for several years but amid opposition by religious lobby groups it was banned in 2008[36] and a proposal to legalize it was rejected in 2013.[37][38] Alkaline hydrolysis has been used for cadavers donated for research at the University of Florida since the mid-1990s and at the Mayo Clinic[1] since 2005.[39] UCLA uses the process to dispose of donor bodies.[2]

Alkaline hydrolysis policy by state
State Policy Year Legislation Notes Refs.
Alabama Yes check.svg 2017 H-212 Added definition of alkaline hydrolysis. [40]
California Yes check.svg 2017 AB967 Alkaline hydrolysis has been used at UCLA since 1995 for donated cadavers. Previously, AB 1615 (2012) was advanced and passed the Assembly, but died in Senate. [41][42]
Colorado Yes check.svg 2011 HB11-1178 [43]
Florida Yes check.svg 2010 SB1152 In use at the University of Florida since the mid-1990s. [44]
Georgia Yes check.svg 2012 HB933 SB296 pending in House to remove conflicting language. [45][46]
Idaho Yes check.svg 2014 Docket 24-0801-1301 Adopted in a docket amending the Rules of the State Board of Morticians. [47][48]
Illinois Yes check.svg 2012 SB1830 Enacted as Public Act 97–0679. [49]
Kansas Yes check.svg 2010 HB2310 Modified K.S.A. 65–1760 to define cremation as "the mechanical and/or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments." [50]
Maine Yes check.svg 2009 144 CMR 244 [51]
Maryland Yes check.svg 2011 HB995 Added definition for cremation as "the process of reducing human remains to bone fragments through intense heat and evaporation, including any mechanical or thermal process." [52]
Minnesota Yes check.svg 2003 SF1071 In use at the Mayo Clinic since 2005. [53]
Missouri Yes check.svg ? ? 20 CSR 2120–2.071 does not prohibit alkaline hydrolysis in the definition of cremation.
Nevada Yes check.svg 2017 AB205 [54]
New Hampshire X mark.svg 2008 SB332 Legislation to reinstate alkaline hydrolysis was rejected in 2013. [38]
North Carolina Yes check.svg 2018 GS 90-210.136 [55]
Oregon Yes check.svg 2009 SB796 Added "dissolution" to the definition of final disposal. [56]
Texas HB1155 (2017) died in committee. [57]
Utah Yes check.svg 2018 HB0121 [58]
Vermont Yes check.svg 2014 H.656 Enacted as Act No. 138 [59]
Washington Yes check.svg 2020 SB 5001 [60]
Wyoming Yes check.svg 2014 HB25 Enrolled Act No. 21 adds definition for "chemical disposition." [61]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Biocremation (Resomation) – Body Donation – Mayo Clinic". Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  2. ^ a b "Bio Cremation – UCLA Donated Body Program".
  3. ^ France-Presse, Agence (2 January 2022). "What is aquamation? The process behind Desmond Tutu's 'green cremation'". The Guardian. Retrieved 2 January 2022.
  4. ^ a b c McClurg, Lesley (July 24, 2017). "Want to Cut Your Carbon Footprint? Get Liquefied When You're Dead". KQED. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  5. ^ a b Stockton, Nick (10 March 2017). "The Fight to Legalize a Machine That Melts Flesh From Bone". Wired. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  6. ^ a b c d e "Alkaline hydrolysis". Managing Contaminated Animal and Plant Materials: Field Guide on Best Practices (PDF). Texas A&M University. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  7. ^ Olson, P. R. (2014). Flush and Bone: Funeralizing Alkaline Hydrolysis in the United States. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 39(5), 666–693.
  8. ^ The Groovy Green Archived 2012-03-06 at the Wayback Machine website is one example of such sites.
  9. ^ a b Rothstein, Karla Maria (2013). "Reconfiguring Urban Spaces of Disposal, Sanctuary, and Remembrance". In Staudt, Christina; Ellens, J. Harold (eds.). Our Changing Journey to the End: Reshaping Death, Dying, and Grief in America. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 262. ISBN 978-1440828461. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  10. ^ See the October 2007 Newsletter of Worthing Crematorium, operated by Worthing Borough Council in West Sussex, England.
  11. ^ "UK firm: Don't burn bodies, boil them". Physorg News. 2007-08-06.
  12. ^ "New 'petuary' liquifies deceased pets, green alternative to cremation". Los Angeles Daily News.
  13. ^ Kaye, G; Weber, P; Evans, A; Venezia, R (May 1998). "Efficacy of Alkaline Hydrolysis as an Alternative Method for Treatment and Disposal of Infectious Animal Waste". Contemp Top Lab Anim Sci. 37 (3): 43–46. PMID 12456159.
  14. ^ "BBC World Service – People Fixing The World, Greener In Death". BBC. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  15. ^ US 394982, Amos Herbert Hobson, "Process of separating gelatine from bones", published 25 December 1888 
  16. ^ "About Us". Bio Response Solutions. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  17. ^ Siegle, Lucy (2010-04-03). "The innovator: Sandy Sullivan". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  18. ^ Gassmann, Günther; Larson, Duane H.; Oldenburg, Mark W. (2001). Historical Dictionary of Lutheranism. Scarecrow Press. p. 48. ISBN 978-0810866201. 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.
  19. ^ "Catholics and Cremation: Questions and Answers from the Bishops of New York State". New York State Catholic Conference. December 6, 2002. Archived from the original on June 7, 2015. Retrieved April 12, 2014.
  20. ^ "ALKALINE HYDROLYSIS Questions and Answers from a Catholic Perspective" (PDF).
  21. ^ a b "Desmond Tutu: Body of South African Hero to be Aquamated". BBC News. Retrieved 1 January 2022.
  22. ^ "NY Catholic conference opposes 'chemical digestion' of human remains". Mar 25, 2012.
  23. ^ Kilvert, Nick (2019-04-27). "What's the greenest way to deal with your body after you die?". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  24. ^ NWS, VRT (2021-11-30). "Ethisch groen licht voor "resomatie" of lichamen van doden in hete vloeistof oplossen, composteren minder evident". (in Dutch). Retrieved 2022-09-21.
  25. ^ Christianson, Adriana (November 28, 2012). "Liquifying bodies new cremation technique offered in Saskatchewan". News Talk 650 CKOM. Rawlco Communications. Archived from the original on February 2, 2014. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  26. ^ Cohen, Jeremy (November 17, 2015). "Bio Cremation: A Greener Way To Die?". Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  27. ^ Quenneville-Girard, Romy (April 1, 2015). "La bio-crémation débarque à Granby". Granby Express. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
  28. ^ "Aquamación, lo nuevo para sustituir al entierro o cremación".
  29. ^ a b "Health Council of the Netherlands 2020 Admissibility of new techniques of disposing of the dead". Health Council of the Netherlands. 25 May 2020.
  30. ^ "Avbob introduces a new 'green' cremation - no flames, just water and heat".
  31. ^ "Fears over liquefied remains of the dead". BBC News. 18 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  32. ^ Kalia, Ammar (9 July 2019). "A greener way to go: what's the most eco-friendly way to dispose of a body?". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  33. ^ Bowdler, Neil (2011-08-31). "New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home". BBC News.
  34. ^ Davidson, Lee (2018-02-16). "Lawmakers pass bill to allow 'water cremation' as an alternative to burial, traditional cremation". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  35. ^ Funerals360 (2020-01-14). "Alkaline Hydrolysis Laws in Your State". Funerals360. Archived from the original on 2020-10-26. Retrieved 2021-08-21.
  36. ^ "States consider: Is it legal to dissolve bodies?".
  37. ^ "New Hampshire Senate Rejects Proposal For Alkaline Hydrolysis". Connecting Directors Funeral News. 3 May 2013. Archived from the original on 1 May 2015. Retrieved 12 August 2015.
  38. ^ a b New Hampshire General Court (2008), 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.
  39. ^ ABC News. "New in mortuary science: Dissolving bodies with lye". ABC News.
  40. ^ "Act Number 2017 – 433". Alabama Secretary of State. 26 May 2017. Retrieved 13 March 2020.
  41. ^ Gloria, Todd (16 February 2017). "AB-967 Human remains disposal: alkaline hydrolysis: licensure and regulation". California Secretary of State. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  42. ^ Miller, Jeff (8 February 2012). "AB-1615 Human remains". California Secretary of State. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  43. ^ Looper; Fields; Labuda; Nikkel; Schafer, S; Stephens; Todd; Vigil; Wilson; Williams, S. (3 February 2011). "Concerning the regulation of persons who dispose of human remains in the ordinary course of lawful business" (PDF). Colorado Legislature. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  44. ^ "Chapter 2010-125: Florida Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services Act". Florida Department of State. 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  45. ^ Rogers, Carl; Williams, Roger; Brockway, Buzz; Miller, Butch (7 February 2012). "HB 933: Preneed escrow accounts; release funds when a monument is placed into a bonded memorial storage program; provide". Georgia General Assembly. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  46. ^ Heath, Bill (14 January 2020). "SB 296: Funeral Directors and Embalmers; alternative cremation process; provide". Georgia General Assembly. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  47. ^ "Bureau of Occupational Licenses – State Board of Morticians" (PDF). Legislative Services Office, Idaho State Legislature. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  48. ^ "Minutes" (PDF). Idaho Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  49. ^ "Real Estate License Act 2000". Illinois General Assembly. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  50. ^ "Senate Substitute for House Bill No. 2310: An Act concerning the state board of mortuary arts, relating to crematory operations; licensure; fees, amending K.S.A. 65-1760, 65-1763, 65-1764, 65-1765, 65-1766 and 65-1768 and K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 65-1727 and 65-1762 and repealing the existing sections" (PDF). Kansas State Legislature. 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  51. ^ "State of Maine: Rules for establishment and operation of crematoria" (PDF). Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Environmental Health. October 26, 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  52. ^ "House Bill 995". Maryland General Assembly. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  53. ^ "Human remains alkaline hydrolysis disposal method licensing and regulation". Minnesota State Legislature. 13 May 2003. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  54. ^ Araujo, Nelson (13 February 2017). "An Act relating to cremation; authorizing the use of alkaline hydrolysis for cremation; requiring notice be provided to certain entities relating to a crematory which intends to use alkaline hydrolysis for cremation; revision provisions relating to the location of a crematory; and providing other matters properly relating thereto". Nevada Legislature. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  55. ^ "Article 13F" (PDF). North Carolina General Assembly. 1 October 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  56. ^ "Relating to death care; and declaring an emergency". Oregon State Legislature. July 14, 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  57. ^ Davis, Sarah (19 January 2017). "Relating to the cremation of human remains by alkaline hydrolysis". Texas State Legislature. Retrieved 14 March 2020.
  58. ^ "Regulation of Alkaline Hydrolysis Process". Utah State Legislature. May 8, 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  59. ^ "H.656 (Act 138): an act relating to professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation". Vermont General Assembly. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  60. ^ "An Act Relating to human remains" (PDF). Legislature of the State of Washington. 2019. Retrieved 8 January 2020.
  61. ^ "An Act relating to embalmers, funeral directors, undertakers and crematories; etc" (PDF). Legislature of the State of Wyoming. 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2017.

Further reading[edit]