Earlier this week, the New Hampshire Legislature voted to allow alkaline hydrolysis, a process for the disposal of human remains, by which bodies are dissolved into a liquid. The technique, sometimes referred to as bio-cremation or resomation, uses a mixture of water and sodium hydroxide (lye), and involves heating the body at a high temperature, as well as at a high pressure, which allows the body to effectively be broken down into its chemical components. The result is a thick liquid substance and fine bone fragments which can be turned into ashes and returned to the family. The sterile liquid remains are then flushed into the sewer system or used a fertilizer. A bit graphic to think of, but that’s how it works.
The process is another method of disposition (like earth burial or cremation), although there are very few similarities to traditional cremation. The Legislature voted to allow the process back in 2006, but reversed itself the next year and banned it. In 2009, the bill was brought to the table again, but failed.
Those in favor of alkaline hydrolysis argue that it is an earth-friendly alternative to burial or traditional cremation, with fewer greenhouse emissions. Proponents say it is sterile and in most cases can be safely poured down the drain. While opponents consider it to be “undignified” and have an issue with these remains being sent to the sewer treatment plant. Those challenging the bill also want to make sure that the process is regulated properly by the state.
I believe that people should have the right to choose and it’s good to have options. I, however, am eager to see what parameters are put in place to ensure that the state is regulating the process appropriately to prevent any issues.
To my knowledge there are no funeral homes in the state, including ours, that are considering or planning to install an alkaline hydrolysis system anytime soon. Nationwide there is very little demand for this process (less than half of 1% of the population chose this option last year) and due to the high investment in the technology, the cost generally exceeds the price for a traditional cremation.