Alkaline hydrolysis (death custom)

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Alkaline hydrolysis (also called biocremation[1]) is a process for the disposal of human remains which produces less carbon dioxide and pollutants than cremation. The process is being marketed as an alternative to the traditional options of burial or cremation.


The process is based on alkaline hydrolysis: the body is placed in a chamber that is then filled with a mixture of water and lye, and heated to a 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.[citation needed]

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 has been 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] As of August 2007, about 1,000 people had chosen this method for the disposition of their remains in the United States.[4]

Alkaline hydrolysis has also 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.[5]

Religious views[edit]

In Christian countries and cultures, cremation has historically been discouraged, but now in many denominations it is accepted.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]

Legal status[edit]

United States[edit]

Alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposition of human remains is currently legal in seven states,[9] including Florida, Maine, Minnesota and Oregon.[10] The process was legal in New Hampshire for several years but amid opposition by religious lobby groups it was banned in 2008[11] and a proposal to legalize it was rejected in 2013.[12][13] In Minnesota, Mayo Clinic uses an alkaline hydrolysis process to dispose of donated bodies.[1] UCLA uses the process to dispose of donor bodies.[14]


Saskatchewan approved the process in 2012, becoming the first province to do so.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Biocremation (Resomation) - Body Donation - Mayo Clinic". 
  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. ^ "UK firm: Don't burn bodies, boil them", Physorg News, 2007-08-06 
  5. ^ "New ‘petuary’ liquifies deceased pets, green alternative to cremation". Los Angeles Daily News. 
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ "Catholics and Cremation: Questions and Answers from the Bishops of New York State". New York State Catholic Conference. December 6, 2002. 
  8. ^ "NY Catholic conference opposes 'chemical digestion' of human remains". Mar 25, 2012. 
  9. ^ Bowdler, Neil (2011-08-31), "New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home", BBC News 
  10. ^ Briggs, Bill (2011-01-18). "When you're dying for a lower carbon footprint". Retrieved 2011-03-01. 
  11. ^ "States consider: Is it legal to dissolve bodies?". 
  12. ^ "New Hampshire Senate Rejects Proposal For Alkaline Hydrolysis". Connecting Directors Funeral News. 3 May 2013. 
  13. ^ "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 
  14. ^ "Bio Cremation - UCLA Donated Body Program". 
  15. ^ Christianson, Adriana (November 28, 2012). "Liquifying bodies new cremation technique offered in Saskatchewan". News Talk 650 CKOM (Rawlco Communications). Retrieved 2012-11-28. 

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