Final disposition of a deceased loved one is traditionally thought of in terms of burial or cremation. However, along with green burials, which are an alternative and more environmentally conscious way to lay a loved one to rest in a ground burial, a new form of final disposition is starting to gain some momentum in the USA: Alkaline Hydrolysis.
What is Alkaline Hydrolysis?
Alkaline hydrolysis is an alternative method of final disposition that involves the process of liquefying a body after death. It is sometimes called "green cremation", "flameless cremation", "liquid cremation", or "water-based cremation."
How does Alkaline Hydrolysis work?
The combination of pressure, heat, and lye help to dissolve the body. The first step of the process is to put the body into a silk bag, after which the bag is placed into a metal frame.
The frame is then put into a resomator. A resomator is a heated/pressurized container filled with water and lye.
Once inside the resomator the body starts to break down. Under the high pressure, high temperature system (HPHT), this process typically takes about three hours.
Under the no pressure, low temperature process (NPLT), breaking down the body typically takes 10-12 hours. When the process is complete, the only thing that is left is liquid and bones.
The bones are crushed into ash and returned to the family as would be done with cremation.
Alkaline Hydrolysis today*
Today alkaline hydrolysis is an approved form of human disposition in 19 states. For more information on where biocremation is legal, see: Alkaline Hydrolysis Laws In Your State.
*updated March 2020
What are the advantages of Alkaline Hydrolysis?
#1 Alkaline Hydrolysis is a "Greener" Cremation
The most resounding argument for Alkaline hydrolysis is that it is better for the environment than cremation. Cremation, the process of burning the body to turn it into ash, gives off large quantities of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases which are harmful to the environment.
Studies have shown that the process of alkaline hydrolysis requires 85% less energy than cremation and gives off 1/10 to 1/3 of the amount of greenhouse gases as cremation.
#2 Alkaline Hydrolysis Saves Space
From a spacial standpoint, alkaline hydrolysis eliminates the need for a casket and ground burial, thereby eliminating the need for additional cemetery space and the materials used for the casket and burial vault or liner.
#3 Alkaline Hydrolysis Costs Less
From a cost standpoint, the process appears to be priced around the same amount as s direct cremation. However, since this is still a new product and there are not many funeral homes offering it as an option, we will likely see changes to the way it is marketed and priced for your average funeral consumer.
Another advantage to this new disposition method is choice. Previously, people only had two choices when dealing with loved ones: bury or cremate. With the emergence of alkaline hydrolysis we may have a cost effective and greener alternative to cremation and require less space than a burial. Whichever means of disposition you choose, be informed! For more information on alkaline hydrolysis, you can consult with these other online sources: