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Aquamation

Aquamation—sometimes called resomation (in France) or bio-cremation—is a gentle, environmentally friendly alternative to traditional casket burial or fire cremation. It is a quiet, water-based process that reduces the remains to dust that is returned to the family.

The difference: traditional burial, cremation and aquamation 

Whether you choose burial, flame cremation or aquamation, in the end the body breaks down to its basic element of bone ash. The difference between burial, cremation and aquamation is the time the process takes and how the transition occurs. With burial, soil and microorganisms are the catalysts and take as much as 25 years to reduce the body to bone. Cremation does so very quickly through the application of fire. The aquamation medium is water (95%) blended with an alkali solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH). The body is placed in a pressurized stainless steel chamber where water and alkali are automatically added and the temperature is raised. Heat and pressure cause the solution to circulate gently over the body, working together to return all but the bony core to its natural element of water within several hours. The water is hot, but never boils. 

Why choose aquamation?

For environmentally conscious families and those whose religious beliefs may not support the practice of cremation, aquamation is an excellent choice. Aquamation is actually an accelerated version of natural decomposition. At the end of the process, the body has been dissolved in water and the remaining dust and fragments can be returned to the earth. 

Of all the end-of-life choices, aquamation has the smallest impact on our planet. If you are looking for the most eco-friendly bereavement option, aquamation may be the right choice for you.

 

FAQs

 

Can we still have a meaningful service?  

Families who choose aquamation can still honour the life of the deceased by holding a meaningful event, a gathering, a memorial service, or all three. For those who would like a private farewell moment or a service immediately before the aquamation, the Funeral Co-operative of Ottawa will assist in finding a location that will accord with the family’s preferences. 

What are our casket options? 

A traditional wooden or lighter-weight casket cannot be consumed during the aquamation process, which only accommodates protein-based material. Instead, we offer a biodegradable shroud, which is placed within a rental casket if the family has chosen viewing. Once a service has ended, the silk shroud and the body it enfolds are removed from the rental casket and placed directly into the aquamation chamber.  

What are the clothing options?

Since aquamation can accommodate only protein-based materials, clothing to be consumed during the aquamation process must be made of silk, wool or leather. In order to simplify the process for families, we suggest that they choose whatever garments they prefer to see worn, leaving it to the FCO’s funeral director to remove any non-degradable article of clothing in private, just prior to the aquamation process. 

How is aquamation eco-friendly?

Aquamation is an environmentally sustainable choice—more so than flame cremation—because the process emits almost nothing into the atmosphere. Aquamation offers these sustainable advantages over standard cremation:  

  • Very low emissions: no vaporized mercury is emitted and no filtration or abatement systems are required. Mercury from dental amalgams is retained and recycled.  
  • Low carbon footprint: Aquamation uses less fossil fuel and produces fewer greenhouse gases. Its carbon impact is one quarter of the impact of fire cremation. Caskets are not burned, which limits the production of CO2 and the destruction of natural resources. 
  • Energy efficient: uses one-eighth of the energy of fire cremation
  • Safe effluent (the by-product), uncontaminated by harmful chemicals or bacteria 
  • Embalming fluids neutralized, if used; cytotoxic drugs destroyed in the process
  • No surgical removal of pacemakers is required.
  • Medical implants are unaffected and their materials recycled, where possible.

 
The sterile by-product (effluent) from aquamation is made up of small peptides, sugars, amino acids and soaps. It passes safely through municipal water-treatment plants and returns to nature. In essence, the body is recycled without harm to the environment. With aquamation, we return to the earth as part of the cycle of life, our elements reabsorbed as nature intended.
  


Common misconceptions: 

 

Myth #1 

Acid is used during the aquamation process. 

This is completely false. 

There is absolutely no acid used during this gentle, water-based process. With aquamation, the only chemical mixed with the water is an alkaline called potassium hydroxide (KOH), which is a colourless, solid, inorganic compound. KOH is used in the manufacture of numerous cosmetics and pharmaceuticals, and is also used in preparing olives, soft soap, cleaning supplies and other items you would commonly find in your home. In the aquamation process, the reaction of KOH in the water is exothermic, meaning it gives off significant heat that contributes to the breakdown of human tissues within the sealed aquamation chamber.  

 

Myth #2 

The aquamation process “boils” the body. 

This is completely false. 

Aquamation takes place in a highly controlled environment that combines water, alkali, heat and pressure. The process biochemically hydrolyzes the human body, leaving only dust and bone fragments. During a typical aquamation cycle, the body dissolves, bone fragments are rinsed and the remaining by-product is a sterile fluid.   

The same end result 

Whether you choose burial, fire cremation or aquamation, the end result is the same. Eventually, the body is reduced to its basic element of bone ash. The primary differences between burial, fire cremation and aquamation are the time the process takes and the elements involved. With burial, the process of dissolution occurs in the earth and may take up to 25 years before soil and micro-organisms have reduced the body to a skeleton. With flame-based cremation, the transition occurs within two to three hours through the medium of fire fed by CH4 natural gas or C3H8 propane gas, mixed with oxygen. With aquamation, the process takes several hours and uses a solution that is 95 per cent water and five per cent potassium hydroxide (KOH). As you see, each option begins with a body and ends with bone. However, of all the end-of-life choices, aquamation has the smallest environmental impact. If you are looking for the most eco-friendly option upon bereavement, aquamation may be your best choice.