Aquamation, also called resomation (in France), is an ecological alternative to cremation and burial (burial). This still little known technique consists in dissolving the tissues by immersing the body in a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide under pressure. Once the decomposition is complete, the bones are reduced to ashes and returned to the family.

Whichever option you choose - burial, cremation or aquamation - the remains are ultimately reduced to dust. The difference essentially comes down to the length of the process and the mode of transformation.

In the case of burial, the soil and microorganisms act as catalysts, reducing the body to a skeleton over a period of almost 25 years. For its part, cremation is very fast, given the use of fire.

Regarding aquamation, the process consists of using water (95%) containing an alkaline solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH). The body is immersed in a pressurized stainless steel chamber, where water and alkalis are automatically added and the temperature is increased.

The heat and pressure gently circulate the solution around the body, turning everything except bone structure into water in just a few hours. The water is hot but it never reaches the boiling point. 

Why choose aquamation?

Aquamation is an excellent choice for environmentally conscious families and those whose religious beliefs do not allow the practice of cremation. In fact, it is an accelerated version of natural decomposition. At the end of the process, the body has been dissolved in water and, if desired, the remaining dust and fragments can be returned to the earth.

Of all the means of disposing of the body of a deceased, aquamation is the one that leaves the smallest ecological footprint. If you're looking for the most eco-friendly funeral option, aquamation might be the perfect fit for you.

The Ottawa Funeral Co-operative invites you to consider this option. No matter what you choose, we'll give you the best possible service. We are flexible and will respond with the utmost respect to your personalized requests.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can we still have meaningful commemoration?

Families who choose aquamation can still commemorate the death of a loved one by holding a meaningful ceremony, event or gathering, or even all three of them. For those who would like to say their farewells privately or organize a funeral service immediately before the aquamation, the Ottawa Funeral Co-operativewill help them find a location that matches the family's preferences.

What are the options for the casket?

A traditional or lighter wooden casket cannot be used during the aquamation process, where only protein-based materials can be used. If the family chooses to have a visit to the body, we instead provide a biodegradable shroud placed in a rented casket. After the funeral service, the silk shroud and the remains it contains are removed from the rented casket and placed directly into the pressurized aquamation chamber.

What are the options for clothing?

Since aquamation can only be done using protein-based materials, clothing used during aquamation should be made of silk, wool, or leather. In order to simplify the process for families, we suggest that they choose the clothes they wish to use while leaving the funeral director of the Cooperative to privately remove any non-degradable material just before the start of the aquamation.

Why is aquamation ecological?

Aquamation is an environmentally sustainable choice - more than cremation - since releases to the atmosphere are almost zero. Compared to standard cremation, aquamation offers the following lasting benefits:

  • Very low emissions: no vaporized mercury is emitted and no filtration or emission reduction system is required. The mercury in dental amalgam is stored and recycled.
  • Low carbon footprint: Aquamation uses less fossil fuels and produces less greenhouse gases. Its carbon impact represents a quarter of that of cremation. The coffins are not burned, which limits the production of carbon dioxide (CO 2 ) and the destruction of natural resources.
  • Energy efficient: uses one eighth of the energy needed for cremation.
  • The effluent (the by-product) is healthy and is not contaminated with chemicals or harmful bacteria.
  • Embalming fluids, if used, are neutralized; cytotoxic drugs are destroyed in the process.
  • Surgical removal of pacemakers is not necessary.
  • Medical prostheses are not affected and their materials are recycled, where possible.

The sterile aquamation by-product (effluent) is made up of small peptides, sugars, amino acids and soaps. It passes safely through municipal water treatment plants before returning to nature.

Essentially, the body is recycled without damaging the environment. At the end of the aquamation process, we return to the earth - as nature and the cycle of life intended - and the elements that make us up are reabsorbed.

Common false beliefs

Myth o  1 -  The alkaline hydrolysis process employs acid.

This is wrong.

No acid is used during this gentle water-based process. In the process of aquamation, the only chemical mixed with water is an alkaline substance called potassium hydroxide (KOH), which is a colorless solid inorganic compound. KOH is used in the manufacture of many cosmetic and pharmaceutical products as well as in the preparation of olive oil, liquid soap, cleaning products and other articles of common use. In the process of aquamation, the reaction of KOH in water is exothermic, which means that it produces considerable heat which helps to degrade human tissue in a sealed tank of aquamation.

Myth o  2 -  In the process of alkaline hydrolysis, the body is "boiled".

This is wrong.

Aquamation is carried out in a highly regulated environment which combines water, alkaline substances, heat and pressure. The process biochemically hydrolyzes the body, leaving only dust and bone fragments. During the usual aquamation cycle, the body dissolves, bone fragments are flushed out, and the residual by-product is sterile liquid. 

The same end result

Whether you choose burial, cremation or aquamation, the end result is the same. Eventually the body is reduced to its basic building block, bone dust.

Les principales différences entre l’inhumation, la crémation et l’aquamation résident dans la durée du processus et les éléments qui y participent.

En ce qui concerne l’inhumation, le processus de dissolution se produit dans la terre et peut prendre jusqu’à 25 ans avant que le sol et les microorganismes réduisent le corps en squelette.

Pour ce qui est de la crémation, la transformation a lieu dans un délai de deux à trois heures au moyen du feu alimenté par le gaz naturel CH4 ou par le gaz propane C3H8 combiné à de l’oxygène.

Quant à lui, le processus d’aquamation prend plusieurs heures et utilise une solution composée à 95 % d’eau et à 5 % d’hydroxyde de potassium (KOH).

As you can see, each option starts with a body and ends with the bones. However, of all the body layout choices available to you, aquamation is the one with the lowest environmental impact.

If you are looking for the most environmentally friendly option in the event of death, aquamation might be the best choice for you.