Flameless Cremation: Town To Liquefy Bodies As An Eco-Friendly Alternative To Burying Its Dead

If burying a loved one costs too much, would you liquefy the body? This town is mulling the "flameless cremation" option

A woman dressed in black places a red rose on a coffin during a funeral.
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If burying a loved one costs too much, would you liquefy the body? This town is mulling the "flameless cremation" option

A town’s plans to liquefy dead bodies as a way to save money and the planet sounds like something that should have made BuzzFeed‘s “19 Most F**ked-Horror Movies Of All Time” list. However, dissolving bodies as an alternative funeral option could be a thing if officials have their way.

Ever heard of “flameless cremation?” Yes, it is what you’re thinking: the cremation of a body without using flames.

According to a LadBible report, UK lawmakers in West Midlands voted to appropriate funds — £300,000 ($400,000) — to subsidize a “resomator for water cremations at its Rowley Regis crematorium in the Black Country.” Members of the Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council believe this process offers locals a budget-friendly way of putting away their dead. Further, the adoption of flameless cremation is thought to be a buffer against a changing climate.

Flameless cremation is a method mortician and funeral officials use to accelerate the decomposition of a human body. In a simplified explanation, those charged with preparing mortal remains use a chemical process called alkaline hydrolysis.

Basically, chemicals, pressure, and heat are combined to dissolve a body at a rapid pace — in hours rather than months and years. Additionally, cremation without flames uses reduced energy.

A spokesperson with the council endorses flameless cremation, saying the funeral option marks a pivotal point in the industry; it offers people additional options that may be friendlier to the wallet

“Water cremation is the next phase in this evolution and would give people an option that is more environmentally friendly than traditional cremation.”

Dale Hilton is the owner of AquaGreen Dispositions, a Canada-based company that has a long track record for carrying out hydraulic cremations. The use of flameless cremations, he says, “brings your body back to its natural state” and does so rather quickly.

Not everyone is on board with the council’s controversial plans to approve the liquefaction of bodies. First, the proposed method must pass the regulatory process.

At this time, the community’s water process facility, Severn Trent Water, has not issued a permit for flameless cremation. Officials are concerned about how liquefied remains will impact the town’s water supply. Water UK said it doesn’t think the public will support a process that allows dissolved remains to breach the water supply.

“In the absence of guidance from the government on this matter, and without an industry standard or a thorough appraisal of public opinion, Severn Trent has refused to accept a discharge from this process to our sewers.”

Benjamin Franklin is credited with these famous words (via Freakonomics): “In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” And for many families, the loss of a loved one is only one layer of mourning and grief; the other is a potential financial calamity from having to bury their dead, thanks to rising funeral and burial expenses. As Global News wrote in a post, “death ain’t cheap.”

Funeral expenditures vary globally based on a country’s economic fiscal practices. Additionally, the financial burden to bury a loved one can vary greatly, depending on religious practices or cultural norms.

As sources point out, the final tab to bury a deceased person can be exuberant based on a number of factors: burial plot or site, the cost of a coffin, flowers, an officiator, program range, time of year, and other site-specific expenses.

As a consequence of high funeral costs, many people are turning to cremation. Even then, in some cases, families can’t absorb the costs. Therefore, even cheaper methods like flameless cremation are rising in popularity.

The National Funeral Directors Association (or NFDA) has been tracking burial trends for over 100 years. It said the attitudes of families are changing and people are expressing rising degrees of acceptance for funeral options beyond embalming.

Today, so-called green options like flameless cremation are becoming part of the conversation as people search for sustainable options.