Alkaline hydrolysis (body disposal)

Alkaline hydrolysis (also called aquamation[1], biocremation, resomation,[2][3] flameless cremation, or water cremation[4]) is a process for the disposal of human and pet remains using lye and heat. 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 pressure vessel that is then filled with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide, and heated to a temperature around 160 °C (320 °F), but at an elevated pressure, which prevents boiling. Instead, the body is effectively broken down into its chemical components, which takes approximately four to six hours. A lower temperature and pressure may be used, but at a longer duration (98 °C (208 °F), 14 to 16 hours).[5] At the beginning of the process, the mixture is strongly basic, with a pH level of approximately 14; pH drops to 11 by the end, but the final pH level depends on the total operation time and the amount of fat in the body.[6]

Alkaline hydrolysis treatment times of infected animal carcasses[6]
Microbal 212 °F
100 °C
15 psi
100 kPa
3 hours
TSE 300 °F
149 °C
70 psi
480 kPa
6–8 hours

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. To dispose of 1,000 pounds (450 kg), approximately 60–240 US gallons (230–910 l; 50–200 imp gal) of water are used, resulting in 120–300 US gallons (450–1,140 l; 100–250 imp gal) of effluent, which carries a dried weight of 20 pounds (9.1 kg) (approximately 2% of original weight).[6]

This alkaline hydrolysis process has been championed by a number of ecological campaigning groups,[7] for using 90 kW-hr of electricity,[8] one-quarter the energy of flame-based cremation and producing less carbon dioxide and pollutants.[2][4] It also produces no mercury emissions.[9] It is being presented as an alternative option at some British crematorium sites.[10] As of August 2007, about 1,000 people had chosen this method for the disposition of their remains in the United States.[11] Excluding the capital investment cost of equipment, the operating cost of materials, maintenance, and labor associated with the disposal of 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of remains was estimated at $116.40.[6]

Alkaline hydrolysis has also been adopted by the pet and animal industry. A handful of companies in North America offer the procedure as an alternative to pet cremation.[12] Alkaline hydrolysis is also used in the agricultural industry to sterilize animal carcasses that may pose a health hazard, because the process inactivates viruses, bacteria, and transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.[6][13][14]


The process was originally developed as a method to process animal carcasses into plant food, patented by Amos Herbert Hobson in 1888.[5][15][8] In 2005 Bio-Response Solutions designed, sold, and installed the first single cadaver alkaline hydrolysis system and placed it in Mayo Clinic where it is still used today.[16] In 2007, a Scottish biochemist, Sandy Sullivan, started a company making the machines, and calling the process (and company) Resomation.[17]

Religious views

In Christian countries and cultures, cremation has historically been discouraged, but now in many denominations it is accepted.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]

United States

Alkaline hydrolysis as a method of final disposition of human remains is currently legal in eighteen states,[4][21][22] including Oregon, Missouri, Minnesota, Maryland, Maine, Kansas, Illinois, Florida, Colorado, Georgia, Wyoming, Idaho, Nevada, California, and Utah. Additional rules are pending in New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.[23] The process was legal in New Hampshire for several years but amid opposition by religious lobby groups it was banned in 2008[24] and a proposal to legalize it was rejected in 2013.[25][26] Alkaline hydrolysis has been used for cadavers donated for research at the University of Florida since the mid 1990s and at the Mayo Clinic[2] since 2005.[27] UCLA uses the process to dispose of donor bodies.[3]

Alkaline hydrolysis policy by state
State PolicyYearLegislationNotesRefs.
California 2017AB967 Alkaline hydrolysis has been used at UCLA since 1995 for donated cadavers. Previously, AB 1615 (2012) was advanced and passed the Assembly, but died in Senate. [28][29]
Colorado 2011HB11-1178 [30]
Florida 2010SB1152 In use at the University of Florida since the mid 1990s. [31]
Georgia 2012HB933 [32]
Idaho 2014Docket 24-0801-1301 Adopted in a docket amending the Rules of the State Board of Morticians. [33][34]
Illinois 2012SB1830 Enacted as Public Act 97-0679. [35]
Kansas 2010HB2310 Modified K.S.A. 65-1760 to define cremation as "the mechanical and/or other dissolution process that reduces human remains to bone fragments." [36]
Maine 2009144 CMR 244 [37]
Maryland 2011HB995 Added definition for cremation as "the process of reducing human remains to bone fragments through intense heat and evaporation, including any mechanical or thermal process." [38]
Michigan ??
Minnesota 2003SF1071 In use at the Mayo Clinic since 2005. [39]
Missouri ??
Nevada 2017AB205 [40]
New Hampshire 2008SB332 Legislation to reinstate alkaline hydrolysis was rejected in 2013. [26]
North Carolina 2018GS 90-210.136 [41]
Oregon 2009SB796 Added "dissolution" to the definition of final disposal. [42]
Utah 2018HB0121 [43]
Vermont 2014H.656 Enacted as Act No. 138 [44]
Wyoming 2014HB25 Enrolled Act No. 21 adds definition for "chemical disposition." [45]


Saskatchewan approved the process in 2012, becoming the first province to do so.[46] Quebec and Ontario have also legalized the process.[47] A funeral home in Granby, Quebec, has become the first in the province to receive an alkaline hydrolysis machine.[48]

United Kingdom

A public crematorium operated by Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council at Rowley Regis, central England, was the first to receive planning permission to offer the process but in March 2017 the local water utility, Severn Trent Water, refused the council's application for a "trade effluent permit" because there was no water industry standard regulating the disposal of liquified human remains into sewers.[49][50]


Aquamation based in New South Wales is the only company to currently provide alkaline hydrolysis in Australia. With the remains being used as fertilizer on plantation forests, due to difficulty with obtaining permits from Sydney Water.[51]


Since 2019 Grupo Gayosso offers alkaline hydrolysis in Baja California.[52]

See also


  1. Atkin, Emily (2018-06-14). "The Fight for the Right to Be Cremated by Water". The New Republic. ISSN 0028-6583. Retrieved 2019-06-18.
  2. "Biocremation (Resomation) - Body Donation - Mayo Clinic". Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  3. "Bio Cremation - UCLA Donated Body Program".
  4. McClurg, Lesley (July 24, 2017). "Want to Cut Your Carbon Footprint? Get Liquefied When You're Dead". KQED. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  5. Stockton, Nick (10 March 2017). "The Fight to Legalize a Machine That Melts Flesh From Bone". Wired. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  6. "Alkaline hydrolysis". Managing Contaminated Animal and Plant Materials: Field Guide on Best Practices (PDF). Texas A&M University. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  7. The Groovy Green Archived 2012-03-06 at the Wayback Machine website is one example of such sites.
  8. Rothstein, Karla Maria (November 12, 2013). "Reconfiguring Urban Spaces of Disposal, Sanctuary, and Remembrance". In Staudt, Christina; Ellens, J. Harold (eds.). Our Changing Journey to the End: Reshaping Death, Dying, and Grief in America. Santa Barbara, California: Praeger. p. 262. ISBN 9781440828461. Retrieved 4 September 2017.
  9. "Bio Cremation Equipment - Matthews Cremation". Retrieved 2016-09-18.
  10. See the October 2007 Newsletter of Worthing Crematorium, operated by Worthing Borough Council in West Sussex, England.
  11. "UK firm: Don't burn bodies, boil them". Physorg News. 2007-08-06.
  12. "New 'petuary' liquifies deceased pets, green alternative to cremation". Los Angeles Daily News.
  13. Kaye, G; Weber, P; Evans, A; Venezia, R (May 1998). "Efficacy of Alkaline Hydrolysis as an Alternative Method for Treatment and Disposal of Infectious Animal Waste". Contemp Top Lab Anim Sci. 37 (3): 43–46. PMID 12456159.
  14. "BBC World Service - People Fixing The World, Greener In Death". BBC. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  15. US 394982, Amos Herbert Hobson, "Process of separating gelatine from bones", published 25 December 1888
  16. "About Us". Bio Response Solutions. Retrieved 2019-12-04.
  17. Siegle, Lucy (2010-04-03). "The innovator: Sandy Sullivan". the Guardian. Retrieved 2018-11-08.
  18. 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.
  19. "Catholics and Cremation: Questions and Answers from the Bishops of New York State". New York State Catholic Conference. December 6, 2002.
  20. "NY Catholic conference opposes 'chemical digestion' of human remains". Mar 25, 2012.
  21. Bowdler, Neil (2011-08-31). "New body 'liquefaction' unit unveiled in Florida funeral home". BBC News.
  22. Davidson, Lee (2018-02-16). "Lawmakers pass bill to allow 'water cremation' as an alternative to burial, traditional cremation". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  23. Biocremation (2015-01-01). "State Legislation". Retrieved 2017-04-09.
  24. "States consider: Is it legal to dissolve bodies?".
  25. "New Hampshire Senate Rejects Proposal For Alkaline Hydrolysis". Connecting Directors Funeral News. 3 May 2013.
  26. New Hampshire General Court (2008), 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.
  27. ABC News. "New in mortuary science: Dissolving bodies with lye". ABC News.
  28. Gloria, Todd (16 February 2017). "AB-967 Human remains disposal: alkaline hydrolysis: licensure and regulation". California Secretary of State. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  29. Miller, Jeff (8 February 2012). "AB-1615 Human remains". California Secretary of State. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  30. Looper; Fields; Labuda; Nikkel; Schafer, S; Stephens; Todd; Vigil; Wilson; Williams, S. (3 February 2011). "Concerning the regulation of persons who dispose of human remains in the ordinary course of lawful business" (PDF). Colorado Legislature. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  31. "Chapter 2010-125: Florida Funeral, Cemetery, and Consumer Services Act". Florida Department of State. 2010. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  32. Rogers, Carl; Williams, Roger; Brockway, Buzz; Miller, Butch (7 February 2012). "HB 933: Preneed escrow accounts; release funds when a monument is placed into a bonded memorial storage program; provide". Georgia General Assembly. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  33. "Bureau of Occupational Licenses - State Board of Morticians" (PDF). Legislative Services Office, Idaho State Legislature. 18 September 2013. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  34. "Minutes" (PDF). Idaho Senate Commerce & Human Resources Committee. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  35. "Real Estate License Act 2000". Illinois General Assembly. 6 February 2012. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  36. "Senate Substitute for House Bill No. 2310: An Act concerning the state board of mortuary arts, relating to crematory operations; licensure; fees, amending K.S.A. 65-1760, 65-1763, 65-1764, 65-1765, 65-1766 and 65-1768 and K.S.A. 2009 Supp. 65-1727 and 65-1762 and repealing the existing sections" (PDF). Kansas State Legislature. 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  37. "State of Maine: Rules for establishment and operation of crematoria" (PDF). Department of Health and Human Services, Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Environmental Health. October 26, 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  38. "House Bill 995". Maryland General Assembly. 12 February 2010. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  39. "Human remains alkaline hydrolysis disposal method licensing and regulation". Minnesota State Legislature. 13 May 2003. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  40. Araujo, Nelson (13 February 2017). "An Act relating to cremation; authorizing the use of alkaline hydrolysis for cremation; requiring notice be provided to certain entities relating to a crematory which intends to use alkaline hydrolysis for cremation; revision provisions relating to the location of a crematory; and providing other matters properly relating thereto". Nevada Legislature. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  41. "Article 13F" (PDF). North Carolina General Assembly. 1 October 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2019.
  42. "Relating to death care; and declaring an emergency". Oregon State Legislature. July 14, 2009. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  43. "Regulation of Alkaline Hydrolysis Process". Utah State Legislature. May 8, 2018. Retrieved 6 July 2018.
  44. "H.656 (Act 138): an act relating to professions and occupations regulated by the Office of Professional Regulation". Vermont General Assembly. 22 May 2014. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  45. "An Act relating to embalmers, funeral directors, undertakers and crematories; etc" (PDF). Legislature of the State of Wyoming. 2014. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  46. Christianson, Adriana (November 28, 2012). "Liquifying bodies new cremation technique offered in Saskatchewan". News Talk 650 CKOM. Rawlco Communications. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  47. Cohen, Jeremy (November 17, 2015). "Bio Cremation: A Greener Way To Die?". Retrieved 2015-11-17.
  48. Quenneville-Girard, Romy (April 1, 2015). "La bio-crémation débarque à Granby". Granby Express. Retrieved 2015-04-01.
  49. "Fears over liquefied remains of the dead". BBC News. 18 December 2017. Retrieved 18 December 2017.
  50. Kalia, Ammar (9 July 2019). "A greener way to go: what's the most eco-friendly way to dispose of a body?". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2019.
  51. Kilvert, Nick (2019-04-27). "What's the greenest way to deal with your body after you die?". ABC News. Retrieved 2019-04-29.
  52. {{Cite web| Aquamación, lo nuevo para sustituir al entierro o cremación

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