Alkaline hydrolysis is considered an eco-friendly alternative to traditional flame-based cremation because it produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions, does not release of harmful gases into the atmosphere, and uses significantly less energy. The sterile liquid used in the process can actually be returned to the environment through various methods.
The availability of alkaline hydrolysis services varies by location due to local law; not all states accept alkaline hydrolysis as an acceptable method of disposition. Currently it is legal in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, and Washington.
Here's how the alkaline hydrolysis process works:
Preparation: The body is placed in a specialized vessel designed for aquamation. The vessel is often similar in appearance to a traditional cremation chamber.
Alkaline Solution: A mixture of water and an alkaline chemical, typically potassium hydroxide, is added to the vessel. The solution is heated to a high temperature, usually around 160-180 degrees Celsius (320-356 degrees Fahrenheit).
Decomposition: The combination of heat and alkaline solution accelerates the natural decomposition process that would occur in soil over several years. This process breaks down the body's organic matter, leaving only bones and soft tissues.
Sterilization: The process effectively sterilizes the remains, eliminating any potential pathogens or contaminants.
Bone Fragments: After the aquamation process is complete, the remaining bones are very brittle and can be easily reduced to a fine powder.
Liquid Effluent: The liquid solution that remains after the process is a sterile solution containing amino acids, sugars, and salts. This solution is typically treated and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner.
Final Steps: The bone fragments, which are similar to those produced in traditional cremation, are further processed into a fine powder known as "ashes."