Aquamations is coming to Britain as Co-op Funeralcare have confirmed that will offer the service at the end of this year.
Also known as alkaline hydrolysis, resomation, or water cremation, the process involves rapidly decomposing a corpse in a stream of water and alkaline chemicals, leaving only fluid and bone.
It offers a green alternative to burials and cremations, which burn a lot of fuel and emit greenhouse gases.
But what is a water cremation and what happens to the human body during the process?
MailOnline reveals its step-by-step guide to water cremations.
The process offers a green alternative to burial and cremation, which burns a lot of fuel and emits greenhouse gases.
Water cremation speeds up the decomposition of the body, turning everything but the bones into liquid. In the image: a pot used for cremations in water
What is a cremation with water?
What happens during a water cremation?
- The corpse is loaded into the machine, which then calculates the amount of water and potassium hydroxide needed.
- The pressurized tank is filled with the alkaline solution.
- The tank heats up to 152C (305F).
- The remaining liquid is cooled in a separate tank and drained.
- The liquid (about 330 gallons) is washed down the drain.
- The bones are ground into powder and given to the family in an urn.
During the aquamation process, the body is placed in a stainless steel container.
Alkali is added, based on individual characteristics (weight, sex, state of embalming), before the container is filled with water.
The 95 percent water and 5 percent alkali solution is heated to 200-300°F and gently circulated throughout the process.
At the end of the process, all the material is broken down into the smallest building blocks; no DNA or RNA remains.
Sterile process water is released for recycling and the vessel performs a fresh water rinse for equipment and debris.
When the operator opens the door, only the inorganic minerals of the bone remain, which are processed into powder and returned to the family in an urn.
This final processing step is the same process that is followed with flame cremation.
Why is it better for the environment?
According the atlanticaquamation has about one-tenth the environmental impact of flame cremation, which requires a lot of fuel.
A cremation is bad for the environment because it releases large amounts of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air.
The process involves heating the body in a mixture of potassium hydroxide and water for up to 90 minutes. Pictured: a resomator from Resomation Ltd.
READ MORE: Would YOU liquefy your dead pet?
A company in Seattle called Resting Waters offers aquaculture of a dead pet for up to $550 (£430), depending on size. In the image, a company employee pours water into the aquamation machine, built by Bio-Response Solutions
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, the average cremation produces about 535 pounds of carbon dioxide, which is the equivalent of driving a car about 600 miles.
Another traditional option is a burial, but the problem with this is that the container containing the body often takes years to decompose in the ground if it is made of metal or plastic.
Even if the container is compostable, such as a pine box, the decaying carcass generally doesn’t have a healthy impact on the soil and can often prevent grass and plants from growing properly.
How much does it cost?
While the cost of aquamations remains unclear, funeral guide claims it will have the same prices as a traditional cremation.
“It is anticipated that an eco-friendly cremation will be similar in price to that charged for a traditional flame cremation,” he explains on his website.
“These costs can vary in UK crematoriums, and the fee is usually included as part of the total funeral bill.”
Why has interest in water cremations increased in Britain?
Interest in cremations with water increased after Archbishop Desmond Tutu chose the ecological process for his remains after his death in 2021.
The dean of St George’s Cathedral, the Rev. Michael Weeder, said Archbishop Tutu had “aspired to be an ecological warrior”.
Interest in water cremations increased after Archbishop Desmond Tutu (pictured) chose the green process for his remains
When will it be available in the UK?
The Co-op, the largest funeral service provider organizing more than 93,000 funerals a year, will work with sustainability experts to confirm existing research during its initial regional pilot later this year.
The practice is gaining popularity in the US, Canada, and South Africa.
Its introduction will mark the first time an alternative to burial or cremation will be available since the Cremation Act in 1902.
A Co-op Funeralcare survey found that 89 percent of adults had not heard of resomation, but once it was explained, a third said they would choose it for their funeral.
Professor Douglas Davies, an expert on death rites at Durham University, said: “The reduced carbon footprint that resomation can create means it will be of interest to many people.”
Human remains are rinsed in a 120C (248F) solution, dried, and pulverized to ash before being given to relatives for preservation or scattering. Pictured: a resomator from Resomation Ltd.