Thinking about your own death can be uncomfortable, but it’s important to spend time planning for what you want to happen to your body once you die.
As more people have become aware of the harmful environmental impact of burials, cremation is becoming a more popular choice. However, while cremation is more environmentally friendly than a burial, it still releases toxic emissions into the atmosphere. So, what are your options for a green burial?
Enter: aquamation, also known as a water cremation or alkaline hydrolysis.
Wondering if this could be the right choice for you? We’re here to help! Keep reading to learn more about how the aquamation process works, the benefits of this end-of-life option, and how it impacts the environment.
Background on Water Cremation
Although the concept of a water cremation sounds like something out of the future, the reality is that the technology isn’t new at all. In fact, the first concept for an alkaline hydrolysis machine was created back in the late 1800s.
Since then, the technology behind it has continued to evolve, and the first commercial water cremation machine was released in 2005.
How Does the Aquamation Process Work?
The primary goal of a water cremation is to mimic the body’s natural decomposition process but in a much faster timeframe. Instead of taking weeks, months or years, to decompose, the aquamation process only takes a few hours.
During the alkaline hydrolysis cremation process, the body is placed into a large metal machine. The stainless steel material makes it easy to sterilize the machine after every use.
Once the body is ready for cremation, it’s wrapped in a natural fiber cloth and placed inside the aquamation machine. Then, the machine is tightly sealed. From there, the machine fills with approximately 80 gallons of a special mixture of water and potassium hydroxide.
Potassium hydroxide is also known as lye, which is an element often found in soap.
That liquid mixture then heats up to 300°F and pressure applies throughout the machine. The combination of the pressure and the heat of the liquid dissolves all of the soft matter of the body, leaving behind only bones and certain medical devices like implants, pacemakers, or dental fillings.
What Happens to the Remains?
After the aquamation process is complete, the cremation company will dispose of the liquid remains in a safe, sanitary way, typically through the sewage system.
If you don’t like the thought of parts of your loved one going down the sewer, consider this: it’s very similar to what happens during the embalming process for a traditional burial. When embalming a body, the liquids are removed and disposed of in the sewage system as well.
Once the cremation company takes care of the liquid remains, all that’s left are the bone fragments and medical devices as we mentioned above. They’ll grind down the bone fragments, just as they would in a traditional cremation. After that, you’re left with cremains, also known as ashes.
However, it’s worth noting that the ashes from a water cremation tend to be more of a smooth, pure white quality when compared to the gritty consistency of ashes from a flame cremation.
When the remains are ready, you can pick them up and display them or scatter them, just as you would with any other type of ashes.
What Are the Benefits of a Water Cremation?
So, does it seem like a water cremation could be the right choice for your body once you pass away? Let’s take a closer look at the benefits of this burial option, many of which directly help the environment.
It Doesn’t Use Precious Space
Traditional burials require lots of physical space within a cemetery. As new cemeteries are built to accommodate new generations that are passing away, that involves tearing down trees and taking up space that is already limited.
Aquamation, on the other hand, preserves the land that would otherwise become a cemetery, making it a more environmentally friendly option.
It Doesn’t Pollute the Air
While traditional cremation is seen as a green alternative to a regular burial, the truth is that it releases harmful toxins into the air. Alkaline hydrolysis, however, doesn’t contribute to air pollution. This helps keep the planet healthier for future generations.
It Requires Less Energy
As we mentioned above, during a water cremation, the water only needs to reach about 300°F to work properly. A traditional cremation, on the other hand, must get to around 1800°F to be effective, using more energy for the same result.
Generally speaking, most cremation facilities charge about the same price for a water cremation as they do for a traditional flame cremation. And, in most cases, cremation is much less expensive than a traditional burial. If you’d like to cut down on funeral and burial costs to lighten the load on your loved ones, a water cremation is a good choice.
The Legality of Alkaline Hydrolysis
One final thing to consider when deciding if a water cremation is right for you is that it’s not currently legal in all 50 states. And, even in some of the states where it is legal, it might be hard to find a funeral home that provides it as a service. The water cremation machines are expensive, and that can deter some providers from offering water cremations in-house.
Fortunately, more states are making the process legal, and it’s expected to become more mainstream over time. As you’re doing your estate planning and deciding on what you want to happen to your remains, take some time to research the water cremation laws in your state.
Preparing for What Comes Next
Planning for your own death is not fun, but it is important. After reading through this guide to aquamation, we hope you feel more confident when making your decision about what will happen to your body once you pass.
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