Alkaline hydrolysis cremation, also known as water cremation, is an alternative to flame cremation. Let’s take a moment to discuss this disposition method that is older than you think.

Alkaline Hydrolysis Process

The alkaline hydrolysis process was created to mimic the natural decomposition process of a body buried in the ground. Here’s how it works.

The human remains are placed in a watertight chamber, and 100 gallons of water and alkaline chemicals (potassium hydroxide) are added. The chamber is heated and gently agitated, which causes the body’s soft tissue to break down. The remaining bone fragments are pulverized into tiny pieces, resulting in the white, sand-like material known as cremated remains (or cremains). It’s worth noting that this process produces 20% more remains than traditional flame cremation.

The History of Alkaline Hydrolysis Cremation

Liquid cremation has been around since the Victorian Era. Joseph H. Wilson and Amos Herbert Hobson of Middlesex, England, patented alkaline hydrolysis in 1888 to process animal carcasses into plant food. Throughout the years, research facilities used alkaline hydrolysis to dispose of animal bodies used in research or animal bodies contaminated with disease.

However, the transition from using liquid cremation for a human body took almost 100 years. Bio-Response Solutions designed the first single cadaver alkaline hydrolysis system. In 2007, Scottish biochemist Sandy Sullivan founded Resomation and used the name for its alkaline hydrolysis machine.

Is Water Cremation Legal?

According to a report produced in 2021, water cremation is legal in 20 states. However, the same report states that you can only find an alkaline hydrolysis facility in 11 states. There is currently no legislation or regulations (or facilities) in Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

Is the Alkaline Hydrolysis Machine More Eco-Friendly Than Flame Based Cremation or Burial?

Crematories use intense heat to break down the body’s tissues, which requires a lot of energy. However, some reports state that alkaline hydrolysis uses about one-seventh of the energy of traditional cremation because the process is completed at a lower heat. And alkaline hydrolysis is more eco-friendly than traditional burial – as the embalming fluids are made of toxic chemicals.

Liquid cremation requires a great deal of water. Proponents of this process report that the remaining water is a sterile mix that is made up of 96% water and 4% amino acids and peptides – with no human DNA. This means that it is perfectly safe to go down the drain. However, some feel uncomfortable with this type of disposal.

Key Takeaways About Alkaline Hydrolysis

  • Alkaline hydrolysis is a method of disposition used for the body disposal of animals since the 1880s.
  • The process uses less energy than flame-based cremation and doesn’t require the use of harmful embalming chemicals.
  • Liquid cremation is not available or legal in many states.
  • Conventional cremation remains the most popular method of disposition in the United States.

Philadelphia Cremation Society Offers Affordable Direct Cremation

It will take some time for the funeral industry to offer alkaline hydrolysis in all 50 states – and it will take even longer for the process to be as affordable as traditional flame-based cremation. However, for easy-to-arrange, affordable cremation in Delaware Valley and the greater Philadelphia area, contact Philadelphia Cremation Society.

The staff of Philadelphia Cremation Society consists of knowledgeable funeral directors and expert funeral planners who provide compassionate care during one of the most difficult moments of your life. We offer pre-paid plans or are available for immediate need services.