Water cremation is the newest, most eco-friendly alternative form of cremation to emerge from across the Atlantic.
It may be referred to under brand names like Resomation, Aquamation, or Bio Cremation, but essentially these are all the same thing – a form of cremation which does not involve flames.
How does water cremation differ from normal cremation?
Water cremation uses a process called alkaline hydrolysis, a process which breaks down the soft tissue of the body while the bones are transformed into a fine and very white ‘ash’.
Alkaline hydrolysis uses water, alkaline chemicals, and heat to speed up natural decomposition leaving small particles of bone and a neutral liquid.
The decomposition that occurs in alkaline hydrolysis is the same as that which occurs during burial, just super-accelerated by the chemicals which are used in the process.
The way it works is pretty straightforward.
Bodies are placed in a machine containing a chemical mixture of water and alkali. The mixture is then heated and cycled.
In just a few hours, the natural decomposition process takes place, resulting in a residual liquid made up of amino acids, peptides, salt, soap and bones, the last of which is broken down into white ash.
As a result, there is no tissue and no DNA left after the process completes.
Why opt for water cremation?
One of the big claims for water cremation is its green credentials. It is said to be much kinder to the environment than cremation using flame.
Not many people realise that the land used to extract, refine, store, and transport the few pounds of fossil fuel required for a single cremation is significantly larger than the area used for burial.
But for many, burial is not an option.
It costs significantly more than cremation, and the numbers of plots are becoming increasingly scarce.
However, when you weigh up the environmental aspects of cremation you discover that it actually requires a lot of natural gas and produces a lot of excess CO².
Also, the burning of dental fillings within the cremated remains can pollute the atmosphere with mercury when a body is cremated.
This is a major reason water cremation UK is being seen as a viable alternative.
It’s already been used on animals during outbreaks of foot and mouth and bird flu to prevent harmful pathogens being released into the environment.
It is deemed to be safe because the alkaline hydrolysis process results in sterile bone ash, while it also breaks down proteins in body tissues, which sterilise the liquid that is produced.
There have been issues with alkaline hydrolysis over the issue of waste water.
Some people don’t like the idea of the liquid resulting from the cremation entering the water system, for example.
However, this has been contradicted by the experts who say it goes through the same recycling process as sewage treated water and so is not harmful.
In fact, water funerals are already legal in the UK as long as they comply with certain health and safety regulations and in spite of us not having the technology.
The water which drains away isn’t considered an environmental danger, and although the country has yet to get its first facility to carry out these cremations, there’s very little reason why they should eventually become another option for those who choose not to have a more traditional burial or cremation.
While this kind of cremation might not resonate with everyone, there’ll be others who welcome another more eco alternative.
Certain cultures and religions that have always done things in a particular way will probably struggle with the concept, and there will be others who’ll judge more modern ways of treating the corporeal body with distrust or even distaste.
However, there is certainly a buzz around water cremation in the UK.
Alternative cremation technology is already being developed and planning permission has been granted for a liquid cremation facility in the Midlands pending further investigation of the water disposal issue.
How much will a water cremation UK cost?
Because water cremation hasn’t yet happened on these shores, no one knows quite how much it will cost just yet.
However, the price is estimated to be similar to that which is charged for a traditional flame cremation.
We may not be geared up just yet for water cremation but there are plenty of eco options you might want to consider when planning a funeral.
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