Resomation: Earth Friendly Water Cremation

In the UK, when we die, we have traditionally had the option of being buried or cremated. However, it has recently been announced that there will now be a third option; Resomation. Resomation is an eco-friendly alternative to burial or cremation that is set to be slowly introduced into parts of the UK, it is hoped that offering this alternative can ease some of the pressures on space in graveyards as well the environmental impact of death. Read on to find out more about resomation, what it is, why it is better for the earth, and how to consider this alternative for your body after death. 

What is Resomation?

Resomation is one of the names given to a chemical process called Alkaline Hydrolysis, you may also hear it referred to as biocremation, water cremation, aqua cremation, or flameless cremation. The link with cremation is because the process ends in ashes in an urn being returned to the family of the deceased, which is the same as for traditional cremation. However, resomation utilises water and the chemical potassium hydroxide instead of flames to break down the body of the deceased. 

The body naturally consists of over 50% water, and would break down overtime if left, resomation naturally speeds up this process. The body of the deceased is placed in a biodegradable pouch that is placed in a container filled with pressurised, heated water, and a little potassium hydroxide. Combining the chemical, pressure, and heat is what accelerates the decomposition process. After all the body tissue is broken down the bones are left that easily disintegrate into white ash that is returned to the family of the deceased. Depending on the temperature used the process can take 4-16 hours. 

Following the announcement by the Co-Op funeral group that they would be introducing resomation into the UK, there have been newspaper articles terming them as ‘boil in the bag funerals.’ This is factually incorrect and misleading, using pressurised water prevents it from boiling, despite it being heated to temperatures of up to 160oC. Clearly disposing of the body of a loved one is an emotional process, and resomation offers a viable alternative that is kinder to the environment, fast, and dignified.

Environmental Impact

Disposing of the body following death is an essential process, however, there is no doubting that both burial and cremation have a negative impact on the environment. Cremation releases carbon dioxide and other chemicals into the atmosphere, and traditional burials take up space, and release chemicals into the soil that can damage the land and eventually get into the water supply; you can read more about the environmental impact of funerals here.

Resomation is a new, more sustainable option, that has a lower impact on the environment. The process of resomation is thought to use a quarter of the energy that is used in the traditional cremation process and produces less carbon dioxide and other pollution. Liquid that is left after resomation is complete can be returned to the water cycle safely. Younger people, in particular, are seeking to reduce their carbon footprint throughout life and, having an eco-option for the body upon death is a huge modernisation for the funeral industry. 

Choosing Resomation 

Already available in parts of the world including some states of America, Canada, and South Africa, resomation will be available in the UK later in 2023. Initially set to be trialled in a few areas, with wider spread availability over coming years, it is likely to take some time before resomation is a mainstream option available to everyone. As of yet it is unclear where resomation will be available, and the cost involved, however, it is thought that cost will be comparable to cremation or burial. 

Co-Op Funeral Care have partnered with Resomation, the UK brand that supplies the equipment and expertise behind the process. You can take a look at their website for more information about what resomation is and to keep updated with availability in the United Kingdom.  

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