Dissolving Dead Bodies – A New Green Idea
By James Donahue
There is a process called alkaline hydrolysis
that has been used for the past 16 years to dispose of animal carcasses. Because of the high cost of funerals and because
we are running out of places to bury all of our dead, the process is being seriously considered as an alternative to conventional
ways of disposing of human bodies.
If it sounds gross, that is because we are programmed
to do the socially acceptable thing . . . that is put the embalmed body in a casket, spend at least three days gathering around
it to mourn, and then recite final words as we watch the casket being slowly lowered into a hole in the ground.
Either that, or we place the body in a funeral
pyre and burn it, either on a floating barge or in a crematorium. Burning has only recently become popular in America because
it is far less costly than paying the full price of buying caskets and going through the ritual.
Alkaline hydrolysis is not a pretty route, and
folks would not want to be standing around to watch it. But it offers the advantage of a quick and inexpensive way of disposing
of human bodies without leaving much trace behind. It involves dissolving bodies in lye and using 300-degree heat and 60 pounds
of pressure per square inch within big stainless-steel cylinders that are much like pressure cookers.
When it is over, the residue is a brownish syrupy
substance that can be flushed down the drain. The process also leaves a dry bone residue that looks like cremated remains
that can be returned to the family in an urn or buried in a cemetery.
Proponents of the process say the brown liquid
is sterile and can be safely poured down the drain if the operation has the necessary permits, and we suppose, the drain feeds
into a city sanitation system. The process eases concerns about crematorium emissions that include carbon dioxide as well
as mercury from silver dental fillings.
Overall, the process is more environmentally friendly
than burning bodies, and taking up space for big cemetery plots.
While there is an expressed interest in alkaline
hydrolysis by U.S. Morticians, no funeral homes in the country, or anywhere else in the world, are known to yet offer this
process for disposing of human bodies.
Because of its environmental
advantages, however, we believe it is an idea worth considering. That old Christian belief that says our bodies will be popping
up out of the grave when Jesus returns has created a mindset that has been highly profitable to funeral homes. Even the alternative
of cremation is considered the equivalent to burning in hell for most die-hard believers.