Image credit: Resomation
This probably won't come as big news to most readers, but we are all going to die. And that's why finding sustainable ways to deal with human remains should be an important priority. From composting your corpse to a comprehensive look at how to green your funeral, we've explored this issue from numerous angles. But with death being such a complex, culturally-sensitive subject, it is no wonder that it occasionally stirs up controversy. Chemical hydrolysis, or liquid cremation, which involves breaking down human remains by pressurizing them in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide, is among the most contentious of methods for disposing of bodies. But there are tentative signs that it may finally be catching on.
One Ohio funeral home was already prevented from offering chemical hydrolisis as an environmentally safer alternative to cremation. But now the BBC reports that a Florida funeral home has installed an alkaline hydrolysis unit that will offer more efficient, cleaner disposal of bodies compared to traditional cremation. Created by a Scottish company called Resomation, the unit offers substantive reduction of carbon emissions and other pollutants:
The makers claim the process produces a third less greenhouse gas than cremation, uses a seventh of the energy, and allows for the complete separation of dental amalgam for safe disposal. Mercury from amalgam vaporised in crematoria is blamed for up to 16% of UK airborne mercury emissions, and many UK crematoria are currently fitting mercury filtration systems to meet reduced emission targets.
Of course cultural attitudes may take some time to shift, but cremation was once viewed as a "heathen" practice by much of the Christian world too. With an increased focus on reducing carbon emissions, and approval of alternative methods of disposal pending in many countries, the chances are we'll see this and other innovations in the funeral industry spreading internationally in the coming years. With Resomation already winning prominent recognition from the likes of The Observer Ethical Awards (see video below), I'm hoping that when my time comes, this will be a commonly available alternative. (I'm also hoping there will be plenty of time for that to happen.)