There are an awful lot of people on the planet, and modern methods for disposing of human remains aren’t exactly earth-friendly. A new alternative to cremation and burial could change that — and even increase food production for those still living — if we can get past the ‘ick factor’ of liquefying our dead relatives.
"Resomation" is the process of disposing of human corpses through alkaline hydrolysis, which occurs when the body is sealed inside a vault-like tube filled with water and lye and steam-heated to 300 degrees. Three hours later, some powdery bone fragments and 200 gallons of fluid are all that remains.
Essentially, Resomation — which was developed by Scottish company Resomation Ltd. — is just like the natural process of decomposition, but on fast-forward. The fluid can be safely dumped into sewer systems or even used as fertilizer on farms and gardens — a proposal that some say comes a little too close to ‘Soylent Green’ for comfort.
But unlike cremation and traditional burial, alkaline hydrolysis doesn’t lead to toxic chemicals like dioxin and formaldehyde being released into the atmosphere or water supply. It also uses 80 percent less energy than standard cremation.
Despite its apparent eco-friendliness, it’s improbable that Resomation will become a common way to deal with human remains any time soon. It seems unlikely at best that Americans will accept pouring what’s left of a loved one down a drain or consuming food that has been sprayed with corpse juice.
But as world leaders struggle to deal with the immense specter of global warming, solutions like Resomation may become more palatable — and it’s already accepted by many religious faiths, including Catholicism.
“We’re not opposed to it. Environmentally, it seems like the right thing to do,” says Catholic Cemeteries manager of marketing Amy Profenna.