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Wednesday 23 May 2018

Bio/Water/Hydro...etc...Cremation! OR Alkaline Hydrolysis OR Resomation

Known by a million different names, Resomation (that's what I am sticking to for the purpose of this article) is definitely a hot watery topic in the funeral world. ;-)

At the ICCFA in Las Vegas earlier this year, there was a workshop early one Saturday morning talking all things resomation in the pet world. I went to update my knowledge.

So what is it? From what I gathered at the show and from previous informative workshops and a little research, it produces less carbon dioxide than cremation and would be considered more environmentally friendly as there is no fire or smoke emissions as it 'dissolves the body's tissue'. It uses a combination of heated water and potassium hydroxide (or the cheaper sodium hydroxide) to liquefy the body, leaving only the bones behind. The bones are then pulverized, similar to regular cremation, and these are fragments returned to loved ones.

There is a choice of two different types of machines - one using high temperatures and one using low. There is a 'cycle time' for the typical body of a pet of 8-20 hours which seems like a fairly broad estimation of time so clearly, there is no 'average' yet. For pets, about 2-6 pets can be put through each 'cycle'. For humans it appears the cycle time is 3-4 hours as there is a higher temperature use.

While considered environmentally friendly and research has proven the destruction of all pathogens (things that cause disease), there is still a concern over prions (deadlier disease-causing creeps that mostly reside in the brain). The speaker at this particular Vegas workshop, Seyler, said he had not ever witnessed the destruction of prions and was curious to hear more on studies of it using resomation.

The first human 'test' was completed in the Mayo Clinic in 2005 and it slowly gained traction in the US, reaching a height of...morbid curiosity 2011 and it continues to grow. As far as I am aware, however, it is not legal in every State in America but is gaining traction outside of the US, in the UK and Canada.

It has been described by those looking to promote it as a 'gentle reduction process', however, I have heard, on fairly good and accurate authority, that to begin the process and help it along, the skull which protects our most valuable accessory, the brain, must be cracked open so the brain can be dissolved in the liquid. Otherwise, there are times when some brain tissue is left because of the hard protective nature of the skull. There is an issue with fully dissolving the liver also. On the plus side, operators of the machine can open and see the machine running - although I'm not quite sure why this is a positive because you're hardly going to stick your arm into a solution that dissolves tissue to prod or move things around are you?

So the big question - What happens to the wastewater? Apparently, it can go down the drain but what about the pH balance? Surely the same solution that dissolved the body would corrode the infrastructure and the sewer plant and anything else it passes through?

Prices for resomation seem to average at similar, if slightly more expensive than regular cremation.

In summation, I'm not a fan of knowing granny or indeed puppy's head will be caved in before she gets dissolved and then flushed down the drain and I'm not entirely sold on the benefits to the environment but as always, I am open to suggestion and discussion so if anybody can inform me differently, please elaborate!


  1. When we decide the pet cremation houston for our beloved Tagger, we did not ask something about the waste water etc. maybe because they are highly recommended of my Boss that's why I believed that they did right the service for my Tagger.

  2. Hi Jennifer,
    I am Sandy Sulivan the founder of Resomation Ltd which is a patented trademarked version of Water Cremation / Alkaline Hydrolysis.
    I was also in attendance at the ICCFA Saturday presentations none of which were given by or to do with Resomation! We do not do pet systems and only manufacture our own high temperature 3- 4 hour pressurised versions that operate horizontally throughout, do NOT crush the skull and the pH is automatically reduced to a safe level always meeting local authority requirements prior to release. Ensuring full brain tissue dissolution is the patented part of our process and does NOT involve crushing the skull!!
    Clients see/choose water cremation as gentler than flame and its environmental credentials have been independently verified. There is no DNA left at the end albeit I always find the granny comment a little strange.It is never poor guys. Humans are about two thirds water and in flame cremation it goes up the chimney and joins the worlds water cycle,in burial the liquid goes via ground water/rivers into the water cycle and in our process after being purified and released into rivers it also joins the water cycle... so no real change there except of the three options the water cremation process has by far the least impact on the environment and it is a third new choice for the public... especially those who wish to express their environmental awareness and concerns in a positive personal manner on their exit or simply feel water is gentler than flame which seems to be the main reason given.
    All that being said Jennifer I appreciate people like yourself investigating other body disposition options as it is often a subject matter many people avoid but one which needs a decision by all in the end. I hope my comments help and that such debate is encouraged. Well done
    Go and visit one of our Resomation installations and see for yourself at Mayo Clinic which you mention (newly installed unit) or UCLA or one of our other installations. It is transparent and I would welcome people actually witnessing how OUR process actually works. It is very quiet and dignified.