At the 2015 NFDA convention, there was a lot of interest in alkaline hydrolysis, a water-based alternative to fire-based cremation. Bio-Response Solutions, which has more than 18 years of experience making alkaline hydrolysis equipment, had a very large booth at the expo.
The U.S. national average of those utilizing cremation is predicted to exceed 50% by 2016, according to CANA, the Cremation Association of North America. Many of those choosing cremation are concerned about how their disposition will impact the environment.
A flame cremation of an average size person generates 532 pounds of CO2, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. Multiply that figure by 1.4 million, the number of people in the U.S. cremated in 2014, and you’ve got a significant carbon footprint!
Alkaline hydrolysis is essentially an accelerated version of what takes place during natural decomposition. Water, elevated temperature, and alkalinity are used to speed the process of reducing tissue to the basic building blocks of life. The process generates a sterile coffee colored liquid, free of DNA, RNA and any drugs that were in the body. The remaining fluid is beneficial for municipal sewage systems, which regularly deal with acidic effluent.
Luke Wilson, President of Bio-Response Solutions, said that 15 states have approved alkaline hydrolysis system usage, including Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon, Vermont and Wyoming. Missouri will come online in 2016 and it looks like 10 more states will approve the process soon.
And medical schools can obtain approval to use alkaline hydrolysis through their state Health Departments. The medical schools at UCLA and the University of Texas utilize such systems, even though California and Texas haven’t approved alkaline hydrolysis in their funeral laws.
The systems are very popular in Canada. The provinces of Quebec, Ontario and Saskatchewan have approved alkaline hydrolysis as a form of cremation.
Some interesting tips:
- Alkaline hydrolysis uses 90% less energy than flame based cremation.
- Unlike flame-based cremation, these systems generate zero greenhouse gasses.
- Alkaline hydrolysis returns 20% more ash remains to the family than flame cremation.
- When given a choice with no price difference, 80% of families choose alkaline hydrolysis over flame cremation.
He explained the differences between a high- and a low-temperature/pressure system. Both can handle a body of up to 500 pounds. Remaining bones are processed like the bones left after fire cremation, in a cremulator.
High-temperature systems operate at 300 degrees Fahrenheit at 65 PSI (pounds per square inch). It takes 4-6 hours to reduce a body to the basic building blocks of life, enabling a funeral home to process seven bodies every two days. Bio-Response Solutions sells this unit for $200,000.
Low-temperature systems operate at 200 degrees at atmospheric pressure – no added PSI. It takes 14-16 hours to complete the process, enabling the processing of three bodies every two days. The low-temperature system sells for $150,000.
Bio-Response Solutions makes systems for humans and for pets. The company sells pet disposition systems at the rate of one a week. Learn more at their websites, www.BioResponseSolutions.com or www.BioResponseFuneral.com.
In this video, recorded at the ICCFA convention in 2012, Sam (Samantha) Sieber, biologist with Bio-Response Solutions, describes the process of flameless cremation using alkaline hydrolysis for people and for pets.
For a more hands-on description, check out this video with Jeff Edwards of Edwards Funeral Service in Columbus, Ohio, a pioneer in the use of alkaline hydrolysis as a green disposition method.