All About Estates

Liquefying Human Remains – Eco-Friendly Alternative to Traditional Burial Practice

A few months ago we wrote on post cremation memorial space flights and underwater burials as alternatives to traditional burial practices.  This week we look at a further “eco-friendly” alternative – liquefying the dead.   

Traditional methods for disposing of human remains are not generally considered eco-friendly and as the population grows space on earth becomes more limited.  But liquefying the dead as an alternative to cremation and burial?

“Resomation” is the process of disposing of human remains through alkaline hydrolysis.  Developed by a Scottish company called Resomation Ltd. a funeral involving resomation is the same as one involving cremation until the point at which the coffin is taken away from view.  In resomation the coffin is placed into a “Resomator”, and instead of fire, a water and alkali method (alkaline hydrolysis) is used to chemically break down the body. The body is sealed inside a vault-like tube filled with water and lye and steam-heated to 300 degrees for approximately two to three hours, (which is actually about the same length of time as an average cremation).  Once the process is complete, approximately 200 gallons of sterile liquid and bone ash remain.  The sterile liquid is returned to the water cycle, and like cremation, the bone ash remains are placed in an urn.

So, what is the appeal of resomation? Unlike cremation and traditional burial, alkaline hydrolysis does not lead to toxic chemicals like mercury, dioxin and formaldehyde being released into the atmosphere or water supply. Overall, this process results in a lower carbon footprint.  It also uses about 80 percent less energy (electricity and gas) than standard cremation.  And, the sterile liquid can be safely returned to the water cycle free from any traces of DNA and can even be dumped safely into sewer systems or used as fertilizer on gardens and farms.    

However, for now, despite being eco-friendly, it will likely take the resomation process a while to become a common option to deal with human remains in Canada. Even though the process is regulated in some states in the United States and around the world, it is expected to take some time before it is regulated in Canada and resomators are installed in funeral homes and crematoriums.

Until next time

Jasmine Sweatman

About Jasmine Sweatman