The scientific name for this water-based process is alkaline hydrolysis. It is the same process that occurs as part of nature’s course when a body is laid to rest in the soil. A combination of water flow, temperature, and alkalinity is used to accelerate nature’s process.
Trusted institutions have chosen this process for bodies donated to medical science for over 20 years. Most recently, the MAYO Clinic, UCLA Medical School, and UTSW Medical School have chosen this process for their willed body programs.
With alkaline hydrolysis, an individual body is gently placed in a container that is then placed in a clean, stainless steel vessel. A combination of water flow, temperature and alkalinity are used to accelerate the natural process of tissue hydrolysis.
At the end of the process, the body has been returned to its natural form, dissolved in the water (our bodies are approximately 65% water to begin with). The only solid remains are the mineral bone remains.
No, alkaline hydrolysis uses a catalyst called alkali, which is the chemical opposite of an acid.
Yes. The water-based process is 95% water and 5% alkali. A combination of alkalis (sodium and potassium hydroxide) are used in the process to dissolve the body. The alkalis used in this process are the same alkalis used in common cosmetic products, body washes, shaving creams, and even in food preparation. At the end of the process, the chemical has been completely used and no longer remains in the water solution.
The water is returned to the ecosystem via the normal wastewater treatment facility, just as all funeral homes in the United States do during the embalming process. The alkaline hydrolysis process produces a completely sterile solution of amino acids, sugars, nutrients, salts, and soap in a water solution. These are the byproducts of natural decomposition.
Yes, the remains are 100% safe, pathogen and disease free. The ash that is returned to the family is simply bone mineral, or calcium phosphate. The ashes will keep in an urn, or may be buried or scattered in a special place as some families choose to do.
There are no direct emissions of harmful greenhouse gasses or mercury to the atmosphere.
It is very energy efficient – greater than 90% energy savings compared to flame cremation, with 1/10th of the carbon footprint.
Virtually zero. The Aqua Cremation process uses less water than a single household uses in one day. This includes all of the water used for the process, along with the clean water rinses of the final remains and vessel.
For more information, please contact River View Cemetery Funeral Home at (503) 246-6488.
No matter where you go, you leave behind a carbon footprint — or the amount of greenhouse gases produced by a specific human activity. Many people take steps to reduce or offset their emissions during their lifetime, but most have never considered how their death can impact the planet. Thanks to groundbreaking technology, there is a new, eco-friendly alternative to flame cremation and traditional burial, commonly known as aqua cremation. Alkaline hydrolysis, the scientific name for aqua cremation, green cremation, flameless cremation and several other monikers, has been used in animal research since its development in 1888. However, this process has only recently been employed for the final disposition of human remains in the states.
Rachel Essig, Executive Director of River View Cemetery in Portland, OR, explains that River View Cemetery Funeral Home made the decision to offer aqua cremation in April of 2018 as the concept paired well with their other eco-friendly Natural Burial options. Established in 1882, River View Cemetery is the oldest non-profit endowment care cemetery in Portland. Clients choose River View to connect to the historic nature of our cemetery. Aqua Cremation is another option to the Natural Burial choices we offer .”
During an aqua cremation, a single body is placed into a stainless-steel vessel. Then, a blend of water, temperature and alkalinity is used to accelerate the breakdown process — which happens naturally when a body is exposed to soil. However, in the aqua cremation chamber, this process is sped up to just four hours, as opposed to many years.
The process reduces the body to amino acids, peptides, salts, sugars and soaps, breaks down the body and then leaves calcium phosphate. Essig explains, “as with flame cremation, the bone mineral, or calcium phosphate, will be processed into the granules and dust we call ashes. Clients are then able to have the ashes placed in an urn.”
According to Aqua Cremation’s research, this process uses 1/10th the carbon footprint of flame-based cremation, an over 90% energy savings.
Besides using one-tenth the energy of flame cremation, alkaline hydrolysis produces effluent, or wastewater, that’s 100 percent recyclable and free of any DNA from the decedent. The effluent is completely sterile and neutralizes any chemicals, including those left by chemotherapy drugs. In turn, the effluent can then be distributed to local nurseries and seed farms, promoting the idea of a complete lifecycle.
“Due to its environmental impact, it’s likely that flame cremation will see increased regulation at some level, not too far down the road” says Essig. In other words, it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” flame cremation will be phased out and replaced by the sustainable aqua cremation process.
Essig adds, “When considering aqua cremation over flame cremation, it’s important for individuals and their families to understand that both methods can be performed in the same timeframe and at a similar cost. It’s also worth noting that the process provides an eco-friendly option to those committed to the environment or who wish to honor the memory of a loved one who was devoted to a healthier planet. For some, the fact that aqua cremation gently breaks down the body rather than burning it instantly makes this new flameless cremation a gentler option.”
If you’re interested in pre-arranging for aqua cremation services, changing your pre-arrangement to aqua cremation, or if a death has recently occurred and you are interested in aqua cremation as an option, get in touch with River View Cemetery Funeral Home, (503) 246-6488.
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