Alkaline Hydrolysis for Human Remains

I have been hearing more and more about alkaline hydrolysis (water cremation) where I live, in Southern California, so I thought I would do a little research about it. Since the cremation rate in California is over 50% now and the baby boomers tend to think more “green” than their parents and grandparents, I see where alkaline hydrolysis will eventually pass the legislature and people will opt for it over “fire” cremation.

About Alkaline Hydrolysis

Alkaline Hydrolysis is a water- based chemical resolving process using strong alkali in water at temperatures of up to 180C (350F) to rapidly yet sympathetically reduce the body to ash. It is essentially a highly accelerated version of natural decomposition chemistry. Hydrolysis as the name suggests is the process of forcing water molecules between the chemical bonds holding large tissue molecules such as fats, DNA and proteins together. This process breaks the tissue down to its original small molecular building blocks. This is a natural process found in body decomposition after death.

With natural body decomposition you eventually after many months or years end up with ash (bones) and a liquid which is exactly what you get with Alkaline Hydrolysis after two to three hours.

Two similar areas in life where Alkaline Hydrolysis is found:

Firstly, the process can be seen in the natural environment when bodies are shallow buried in the earth in neutral or slightly alkaline soil. To a great extent the bodies are decomposed by alkaline hydrolysis, expedited by soil bacteria and it is a very slow process.

Secondly, it is also a process that happens in your small intestine when consumed food is digested by the process of alkaline hydrolysis, with the benefit of gut enzymes. It runs at a slightly higher temperature than above and is a moderately fast process for small amounts food.

The commercial version of Alkaline Hydrolysis is a bio-cremation process known as Resomation®. This automated process is dignified, takes only 2-3 hours and the ash is returned to relatives/loved ones in an urn as in traditional cremation. The main advantages of Resomation over cremation are the excellent eco-credentials, both in terms of energy saving and carbon footprint reduction.

Resomation®
Resomation® Part 2

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Please see the map below for a current summary of the legislative status of each state:


Blue = Legal in these States
Green = Level 1 – Legislation anticipated or pending
White = Level 2 – No legislation currently pending

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For more information on Alkaline Hydrolysis visit the following websites:

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3 thoughts on “Alkaline Hydrolysis for Human Remains

  1. Thank you for helping get the word out. I am hoping the state gets the message soon and approves the process in CA.

  2. This sounds like a better alternative on people minds than cremation by fire. I wonder what cost are in comparison to cremation by fire? This is the first time I heard of this. Thanks for the interesting information.

    1. The cost associated with Alkaline hydrolisis may seem high in the upfront but is actually in the long run less expensive. The cost of fuel and electric to run a traditional fire unit is cut in most cases up to 95 percent. The real benefit is in the low to no environmental impact. Actual operating cost will of course be based on where you are operating and cost of chemical. Your other considerations will be minimul use of water, electric and heating medium for the mix. For funeral homes and mortuaties using this method it can either be a boost to the bottom line or a real capture of the market if they choose to reduce their retail cost.

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