A Glasgow-based company has installed its first commercial “alkaline hydrolysis” unit at a Florida funeral home. The unit by Resomation Ltd is billed as a green alternative to cremation and works by dissolving the body in heated alkaline water. The facility has been installed at the Anderson-McQueen funeral home in St Petersburg, and will be used for the first time in the coming weeks. It is hoped other units will follow in the US, Canada and Europe.
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.
“Resomation was developed in response to the public’s increasing environmental concerns,” company founder Sandy Sullivan told BBC News. “It gives them that working third choice, which allows them to express those concerns in a very positive and I think personal way.”
The installation was only made possible after the state legislature in Florida approved the use of the technology, one of seven US states in which the process has now been legalised. The system works by submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide which is pressurised to 10 atmospheres and heated to 180C for between two-and-a-half and three hours. Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. Mr Sullivan, a biochemist by training, says tests have proven the effluent is sterile and contains no DNA, and poses no environmental risk. The bones are then removed from the unit and processed in a “cremulator”, the same machine that is used to crush bone fragments following cremation into ash. Metals including mercury and artificial joints and implants are safely recovered. Edited from New body ‘liquefaction’ unit unveiled in Florida funeral home.