A council has plans to allow people to dispose of loved ones’ bodies through water cremation, a new and environmentally friendly way to get rid of human remains.
The process involves putting a body is put into a steel vat with an alkaline solution that accelerates the natural breakdown of the body, turning all but the bones into liquid that gets poured down the drain.
Sandwell metropolitan borough council, near Birmingham, hopes to become the first in the UK to use the cremation technique, which is already used in parts of Canada and the United States.
The council has given permission to Rowley Regis crematorium to fit a £300,000 Resomator, or water cremation device into their facility.
But water company Severn Trent has refused to give the council a ‘trade effluent permit’, arguing that the permit only covers waste disposal.
Rowley Regis needs permission from Severn Trent before it can dispose of waste down the drain, The Sunday Times reported.
Sandwell council, Resomation and Water UK are working to ‘explore all the options’ to allow the device into Rowley Regis.
Alkaline hydrolysis was originally created to dispose of animal carcasses, but it is now being used in parts of North America as a more environmentally friendly way of disposing of loved ones’ bodies.
Alkaline hydrolysis uses a metal hydroxide, 572F (300C) heat and huge amounts of pressure to destroy bodies in big stainless-steel cylinders that look similar to pressure cookers.
The process involves submerging the body in a solution of water and potassium hydroxide, which is then pressurised and heated for two-and-a-half to three hours.
This leaves a green-brown tinted liquid containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts and soft, porous white bone remains which are easily crushed into ash and given to the family in an urn.
The liquid waste, meanwhile, is flushed down the drain. Per body, there is about 330 gallons (1,500 litres) of liquid waste.
It also eliminates concerns about crematorium emissions, including carbon dioxide, which can be released into the air as part of the process.
The process is considered to be a new way to ‘green-ify’ death, as concern grows over the carbon footprint that is left by burials and standard cremations.
At the Clinical Waste Discussion Forum we have discussed the obvious value of Resomation on several occasions over the last 5 or more years. It seems perfect in so many ways, though obviously discharge consent is an issue. Perhaps this can be effectively resolved using acidic but otherwise non-polluting wastes from other processes to neutralise Resomation residues. It might also help if Water UK were not so unhelpful and looked toward a better service for waste company consumers rather that viewing everything they might be asked to do as a cash cow for their members and invest in better treatment facilities that were, let’s face it, inherited from the Victorians!
For the clinical waste sector, Resomation might be scaled down, to accommodate small volumes of tissue waste on a regional or supra-regional basis. That have got to be good for all concerned.