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BIFD article: Resomation – Natural Water Cremation

This article was written by David Gresty the MD of Arthur Gresty funeral homes and Editor of the quarterly BIFD journal in the UK. This was following an education session presented by Resomation at a regional NAFD meeting in Manchester.

Back in September, I attended a Meeting of the Manchester Area NAFD and the Educational Session was provided by Sandy Sullivan, the founder and director of Resomation-Natural Water Cremation. I had heard of the Company and concept but did not know much more than that, so I was very interested to learn more. In fact, I was so interested by what I then heard, I wanted to share the presentation with our Members.

All biological remains, whether human or animal, must be disposed of in some way or another. It is the natural order of life. In the wild, animal carcasses are reduced to the bare bones through decomposition and with the help of insects, other animals, the sun and the rain. In the human world, this is achieved through the same but much slower process, in a wooden box six feet under or more quickly through Flame Cremation; some cultures use the same techniques but with differing approaches to get the final result.

Sandy, an expert biochemist, formed Resomation Ltd 10 years ago when he proposed the use of Alkaline Hydrolysis to dispose of the human body as an alternative method to Flame Cremation or burial. He felt, that with his expertise, he could create a new method, the first in 142 years, of returning human remains back to nature and the great cycle of life, giving families a greater choice to the two existing methods and a new greener option.

So, is Resomation the greatest invention since the Cremator and will it be the greenest innovation to the Funeral Profession?

What Is Resomation?

Resomation uses a process called Alkaline Hydrolysis. It carries out the cycle of natural decomposition, but in a much faster, efficient and cleaner way.

The deceased, contained in a woollen or similar type of natural container, is placed on a tray and is weighed to calculate the amount of fluid required for the process. The tray is then carefully placed in the Resomation Chamber, where water is added and then Potassium Hydoxide (KOH) liquid to achieve an alkaline concentration of around 5% and heated to a temperature of 150C under pressure to avoid boiling. Over a three to four hour period, all the organic material is reduced back to a water like substance, which is sterile, DNA free and can be sent with normal liquid waste to the water recycling plant. The procedure uses 1500 litres of water per cycle which is less than half a person’s daily usage based on a study taking into consideration everything we use in our daily life.

Once the process is complete, the tray is removed from the chamber and the remains are clean, pure white, sterile bones, along with any medical implants, pacemakers, dental amalgam and any other non-hydrolysable material. The bones are then placed in the Cremulator and the final pure white remains (substantially more than Flame Cremation) returned to the family.

Potassium Hydroxide is used in everyday products such as batteries, fertilizers, soaps, food thickeners, medicines, industrial processes, hairspray, to neutralise acids amongst many other uses. It is not therefore an unusual, nasty product that has been created for the process of Resomation, but an everyday chemical.


At the end of the talk questions were asked and the following points were raised and answered:

  • Embalming of the deceased is permitted but requires a 10% increase in process time and KOH fluid. This happens automatically after letting the system know that the body is embalmed.
  • Resomation is close to starting in Switzerland and Holland and legislative change is underway in Spain and Belgium also. It has not started in the UK as yet because of the normal anxiety of being the first Borough, Council, Company or Organisation to start a new service. Resomation has come close by one council but the water board were worried that people they supply with water waste, as fertiliser, may not be happy knowing that this new process has taken place before water treatment. However, it must be noted that the liquid produced is of no harm especially when compared to human waste, embalming waste, medical waste and other hazardous chemicals that go through the water system. This has been proven, certified, accepted and is not the issue for the take up of the new service. The liquid from water cremation contains no DNA and is sterile.
  • The Company is looking into various types of shrouds or coffins that could be used in the process to make the funeral as professional, respectful and meaningful to the family as possible and give further options.
  • As with all services offered to the public, the price will be determined by the Funeral Profession itself. As with Flame Cremation this will vary between service providers. However, it is anticipated that the price will be the same or less to those currently set for Flame Cremation, but considerably more environmentally considerate. The equipment used, and cost of resources required for the process are considerably cheaper that Flame Cremation.

The talk and reception of the delegates were very positive. When you seriously consider the process of decomposition in a grave and the decomposed matter going into the groundwater, or the use of Flame Cremation whereby a lot of tissue either goes up the flue or is collected in the filtration system, the workings of Resomation is possibly a more efficient, safer and sympathetic method of disposal than any other in the modern world.

Watch this space……

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