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What is Alkaline Hydrolysis?

Alkaline hydrolysis (sometimes referred to as liquid cremation, biocremation, resomation or water cremation) is a manner of final disposition that involves dissolving a cadaver in a heated alkali solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH). The process mimics the body’s natural process of breaking down, but in just 2-3 hours, instead of roughly 25 years.

Once the process is complete, all that is left are bone fragments (which are then crushed into a fine, white powder) and a sterile liquid. The bone fragments may be kept by the family (similar to ashes) and the sterile liquid is disposed of through a wastewater treatment process. (In other words, it’s flushed down the drain.)

Benefits of alkaline hydrolysis

Alkaline hydrolysis is generally considered to be a greener alternative to standard cremation. The process uses only about ⅛ the energy of cremation, produces less carbon dioxide, and doesn’t release mercury vapors from fillings into the air.

How much does alkaline hydrolysis cost?

The cost of alkaline hydrolysis varies by funeral home and geography, but it is usually at a similar price point to a direct cremation (usually between $1,000 and $2,500). The physical equipment has a greater upfront cost to funeral homes, but each cremation is more affordable, so we may see the price drop as alkaline hydrolysis becomes more common.

Do you receive ashes after alkaline hydrolysis?

Because nothing is being burned, alkaline hydrolysis doesn’t produce any ashes. However, the powder of leftover bone fragments can be given to the family to keep in an urn, bury or scatter in a meaningful place.

As of the writing of this post (early 2018), alkaline hydrolysis is currently legal in the following 15 states: California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Wyoming. If you’re interested in alkaline hydrolysis and your state isn’t on the list, the good news is that the list of states that have legalized it has been steadily growing.

For help deciding between methods of disposition and other funeral options, check out our free funeral planning guide.

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Last updated June 19, 2018
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