Resomation Versus Cremation

Even as cremation gains popular acceptance as a solution to the problem of cemetery overcrowding and the harsh environmental impacts inherent in traditional burial, some say cremation doesn’t go far enough to mitigate environmental concerns.

Among the latter is an Australian engineering company that hopes to import and employ a technology known as resomation. The process uses chemicals at high temperatures to dissolve human bodies, yielding liquid remains that could be used as fertilizer, as well as a dry bone residue that could be kept in a cremation urn.

Handmade Biodegradable Box Cremation Urn

Handmade Biodegradable Box Cremation Urn

Resomation uses less energy than cremation while eliminating the need to dedicate more and more land space to burials. In resomation, bodies are dissolved in lye in stainless steel cylinders comparable to pressure cookers. Although the technology is not yet in widespread use, two U.S. universities are using resomation to dispose of cadavers donated for medical research.

In 2008, the New South Wales Department of Lands released a discussion paper on sustainable disposal of corpses, detailing the plight of Sydney’s eight Crown land cemeteries, all of which are expected to be full by 2035.

Cremation is cited in the paper as one way to ease the pressure on cemeteries; however, concerns have been raised that the release of pollutants, such as mercury from dental fillings, makes cremation a less sustainable option than many think. Proponents of resomation say the technology’s big advantage is that it relies less on fossil fuels than either burial or cremation.

Comments (4)

LaurieAugust 1st, 2009 at 5:50 pm

This is very interesting and sounds promising. Obviously, we all should do as much as we possibly can to reduce our use of fossil fuels. I think others probably will deem this alternative to burial or cremation a very worthwhile consideration.

BradleyOctober 26th, 2009 at 9:26 am

This process is more natural than either burial or cremation, but it was devised here in the USA, and it is not resomation, it is “ALKALINE HYDROLYSIS” Resomation is simply a brand name of a marketing guy from Scotland, Not the name of the process, as was distinguished by the UK cremation Society. who decided to support alkaline hydrolysis, but shied away from being seen to be the supporter of a particular marketing firm. Regardless of the name this process must surely become the choice of anyone interested in the environment, pollution, or the waste of resources involved in burials and cremation

KeithWJanuary 6th, 2010 at 1:03 pm

I would certainly agree with Laurie and Bradley. Personally, I am a whole body donor to a medical school for gross anatomy dissection, and the current disposition of all donors involves cremating their remains for a common burial after studies are completed. Just ahead of the ecologically-sensitive curve, The University of Florida and Mayor Clinic employ alkaline hydrolysis units as a form of chemical ‘cremation’. I would have no problem consenting to my remains being dissolved after my cadaver is dissected, with the liquid residue going into sewage, and my commingled ‘ashes’ used to fertilize plants in a memorial garden.

T.J.August 29th, 2011 at 8:30 pm

Buyers beware!!! We are all looking for greener solutions, but I sometimes question if the claim “Green” is used as a marketing tool instead of fact. Please note there are different types of “machines” being sold or “promoted”. There are “high temperature, high pressure” machines vs. “low temperature, NO pressure” machines. It is highly questionable if these machines have the same results. The chemicals being used in these machines may vary depending on the operator and their desire to save money. The research that has been conducted in this field is very specific and does not always include all these varying factors. However, the same studies are being cited as endorsement by many proponents who also seem to be selling the machines. Don’t forget to do your research and make sure the research is comparing apples to apples. I just don’t want any of us to be misleading by doing harm to our earth in the name of being green.

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