[permaculture] composting people
Marimike6 at cs.com
Marimike6 at cs.com
Wed May 28 13:40:42 EDT 2008
Here's the latest trend in the mortuary arts: alkaline hydrolysis.
New idea in mortuary science: Dissolving bodies with lye
By NORMA LOVE – May 8, 2008 CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Since they first walked
the planet, humans have either buried or burned their dead. Now a new option is
generating interest — dissolving bodies in lye and flushing the brownish,
syrupy residue down the drain.
The process is called alkaline hydrolysis and was developed in this country
16 years ago to get rid of animal carcasses. It uses lye, 300-degree heat and
60 pounds of pressure per square inch to destroy bodies in big stainless-steel
cylinders that are similar to pressure cookers.
No funeral homes in the U.S. — or anywhere else in the world, as far as the
equipment manufacturer knows — offer it. In fact, only two U.S. medical centers
use it on human bodies, and only on cadavers donated for research.
But because of its environmental advantages, some in the funeral industry say
it could someday rival burial and cremation.
"It's not often that a truly game-changing technology comes along in the
funeral service," the newsletter Funeral Service Insider said in September. But
"we might have gotten a hold of one.
"Getting the public to accept a process that strikes some as ghastly may be
the biggest challenge. Psychopaths and dictators have used acid or lye to
torture or erase their victims, and legislation to make alkaline hydrolysis
available to the public in New York state was branded "Hannibal Lecter's bill" in a
play on the sponsor's name — Sen. Kemp Hannon — and the movie character's
Alkaline hydrolysis is legal in Minnesota and in New Hampshire, where a
Manchester funeral director is pushing to offer it. But he has yet to line up the
necessary regulatory approvals, and some New Hampshire lawmakers want to repeal
the little-noticed 2006 state law legalizing it.
"We believe this process, which enables a portion of human remains to be
flushed down a drain, to be undignified," said Patrick McGee, a spokesman for the
Roman Catholic Diocese of Manchester.
State Rep. Barbara French said she, for one, might choose alkaline
"I'm getting near that age and thought about cremation, but this is equally
as good and less of an environmental problem," the 81-year-old lawmaker said.
"It doesn't bother me any more than being burned up. Cremation, you're burned
up. I've thought about it, but I'm dead.
"In addition to the liquid, the process leaves a dry bone residue similar in
appearance and volume to cremated remains. It could be returned to the family
in an urn or buried in a cemetery.
The coffee-colored liquid has the consistency of motor oil and a strong
ammonia smell. But proponents say it is sterile and can, in most cases, be safely
poured down the drain, provided the operation has the necessary permits.
Alkaline hydrolysis doesn't take up as much space in cemeteries as burial.
And the process could ease concerns about crematorium emissions, including
carbon dioxide as well as mercury from silver dental fillings.
The University of Florida in Gainesville and the Mayo Clinic in Rochester,
Minn., have used alkaline hydrolysis to dispose of cadavers since the mid-1990s
and 2005, respectively.
Brad Crain, president of BioSafe Engineering, the Brownsburg, Ind., company
that makes the steel cylinders, estimated 40 to 50 other facilities use them on
human medical waste, animal carcasses or both. The users include veterinary
schools, universities, pharmaceutical companies and the U.S. government.
Liquid waste from cadavers goes down the drain at the both the Mayo Clinic
and the University of Florida, as does the liquid residue from human tissue and
animal carcasses at alkaline hydrolysis sites elsewhere.
Manchester funeral director Chad Corbin wants to operate a $300,000 cylinder
in New Hampshire. He said that an alkaline hydrolysis operation is more
expensive to set up than a crematorium but that he would charge customers about as
much as he would for cremation.
George Carlson, an industrial-waste manager for the New Hampshire Department
of Environmental Services, said things the public might find more troubling
routinely flow into sewage treatment plants in the U.S. all the time. That
includes blood and spillover embalming fluid from funeral homes.
The department issued a permit to Corbin last year, but he let the deal on
the property fall through because of delays in getting the other necessary
permits. Now he must go through the process all over again, and there is gathering
resistance. But he said he is undeterred.
"I don't not know how long it will take," he said recently, "but eventually
it will happen."
Now you should be able to not just recycle your loved ones, but refine them
to the point where you can put them in your gas tank.
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