Water cremation will be available for the first time in the UK

As an alternative to cremation and burial, Co-op Funeralcare is piloting water cremation in the UK.
Sejal Sharma
Representational image
Representational image

Des Green/iStock 

As an alternative to burial or cremation, people in the United Kingdom will have another option to ‘cremate’ their loved ones. The method is called Resomation, also known as Water Cremation. It uses water instead of fire to carry out the last rites.

The UK-based Co-op Funeralcare is introducing the water cremation method and will be available in the country by the end of this year, said the press release.

Water cremation will be available for the first time in the UK
Two resomators in the UK-based Co-op

“Up until now, choice has been limited to burial or cremation. We’ve seen from the rapid uptake of newer funeral options, such as direct cremation, that when choice in the funeral market is broadened, this is only a positive thing both for the bereaved and for those planning ahead for their own farewell,” said Gill Stewart, MD of Co-op Funeralcare.

How does water cremation work?

The system is scientifically known as Alkaline Hydrolysis, which uses pressurized water and a small amount of potassium hydroxide to break down the human body gently. The deceased is enclosed in a biodegradable pouch and placed in a container. The process of breaking down the body happens inside the vessel.

It takes approximately four hours, and soft bones are left as residue at the end. These are dried and then reduced to a white powder, similar to ash. The remains are then returned to relatives in a sustainable urn. There is no smoke or emissions emitted in the mechanism.

The process also leaves behind 32 percent more body remains compared to cremation, reported Interesting Engineering. This also helps people live through nature and reduce the carbon footprint of the funeral industry, which is not insignificant.

Carbon footprint of the funeral industry

As per research from consultancy firm CDS Group, UK cremations generated about 74,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2018, about 150 kg of CO2 per cremation on average, with the human population climbing beyond 7 billion, the introduction of this new choice has the potential to ease the pressure on the shortage of burial space world over.

Other companies like Loop Biotech are creating a ‘living coffin,’ a sustainable and eco-conscious funeral product using mycelium, which comes from the roots of mushrooms, reported Interesting Engineering.

Anthropologist, theologian, and expert in death rites, Professor Douglas Davies from the Department of Theology and Religion, Durham University, said, “The rise in ecological and sustainability concerns over the past decade combined with a desire to be part of nature or laid to rest in a natural setting, means more people are considering the environmental impact of their body once they die.”

“The reduced carbon footprint that may come with Resomation compared with other forms of body disposal means it will no doubt be of interest to many people as the practice is increasingly made available in the UK. We have seen interest in water-based disposal build in many countries, with Archbishop Desmond Tutu being the most high-profile person to recently use this method.”

Resomation is already available in almost 30 states in the US. The alternate cremation method is also permitted in Canada, and South Africa and could soon come to Ireland at the end of this year.

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