I have just found out that my local crematorium is offering two new eco-friendly alternatives to cremation. Freeze-drying or dissolving could be the green way to go after death for all you environmentalists out there.

Those of you with a squeamish disposition may not want to read on, but when looking into this, I found it morbidly fascinating… rather like a rabbit caught in the headlights of a car, I just had to keep reading…

As with everything in life, and now even death it seems, we are looking for greener alternatives. Each cremation produces on average 260kg of carbon dioxide when a body and coffin are burnt. And with an increasing population, one thing is for certain – we all have to die sometime.

Cambridge Council crematorium in the UK is offering promession or cryomation (freeze-drying) where the body is frozen in liquid nitrogen leaving it brittle. Using a vibration mat, it is then fragmented. Metal objects such as fillings and implants such as hips are then removed, leaving a sterile powder that can be placed in an urn or scattered.

The second method on offer is called resomation and involves the body being placed in a silk bag before being submerged in a highly alkaline solution (potassium hydroxide) that is heated to 160ºC, in a specially designed vessel or resomator. Flesh, bones and organs dissolve to form a coffee-coloured liquid with the same consistency as motor oil, and calcium phosphate powder in about an hour. The calcium phosphate is dried and used as fertiliser, whilst the liquid can be poured down the drain. The alkali digests the body by the forced insertion of water molecules into proteins, fats, carbohydrates and genetic material. Jewellery, implants or fillings can be recovered at the end of the process.

As well as the lack of carbon dioxide produced, both these methods prevent toxic mercury fumes from fillings being released into the atmosphere.

These green human disposal routes are already on offer in Sweden and Scotland. But as death is such a sensitive an emotional issue, especially for the loved ones left behind, I’m not sure I would want to agree to someone I loved being dissolved. If I had to choose, I think I would prefer to be freeze-dried, the thought of my body being digested in an alkaline solution after death is too much to stomach. Which one would you choose?

Mike Brown

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