Co-op Funeralcare will be the first funeral undertaker in the Uk to provide the service (Picture: Getty)
Water cremation is set to be available in the UK for the first time.
The flameless process sees hot water and lye used to dissolve the body’s fat and tissues over the course of about four hours, leaving behind only the bones.
This is essentially a sped-up version of what happens naturally when a body is buried underground, as the body’s cells are slowly broken down.
Crematorium staff instead powder the deceased’s bones into a fine white ‘ash’, which the bereaved can scatter or place into an urn.
It’s been widely available in South Africa, Canada and some parts of the US for years and was chosen by anti-apartheid campaigner Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Co-op Funeralcare said Monday it will introduce water cremation, also called alkaline hydrolysis or by its brand name Resomation, later this year.
Water is instead used to dispose of a body (Picture: ALET PRETORIUS/Getty Images)
This would make it the first new legal method of disposing of cadavers since the Cremation Act of 1902.
The UK’s largest funeral undertaker said it is an ‘innovative and sustainable’ end-of-life option and it will work with experts to validate existing research during its pilot.
The Co-op will announce pilot locations later this year.
Gill Stewart, managing director of Co-op Funeralcare, said: ‘Up until now choice has been limited to burial or cremation.
‘We’ve seen from the rapid uptake of newer funeral options such as direct cremation that when choice in the funeral market is broadened, this is only a positive thing both for the bereaved and for those planning ahead for their own farewell.’
Researchers say that water cremation is a more environmentally friendly option than cremation or a traditional embalmment and casket burial.
Water cremation is widely available in some countries (Picture: The Washington Post / Hannah Yoon)
Cremations have surpassed burials as the most popular end-of-life option in the UK, according to the Pharos Statistic Issue.
Cremation is generally greener than a standard burial, which sees the body pumped with formaldehyde, a chemical highly toxic to aquatic life.
But gas-guzzling cremator machines release 245kg of carbon, amounting to around 115,150 tonnes of carbon, according to crematorium consultancy CDS.
With water cremation, the remains are placed in a biodegradable pouch.
Professor Douglas Davies, an anthropologist, theologian and death rites expert at Durham University, said that as climate change looms, how people are laid to rest is being rethought.
‘The rise in ecological and sustainability concerns over the past decade combined with a desire to be part of nature or laid to rest in a natural setting, means more people are considering the environmental impact of their body once they die,’ he said.
Nearly nine in 10 Brits don’t know what water cremation is, according to a YouGov poll commissioned by Co-op Funeralcare.
But when told what it is, almost a third said they would consider it down the line.
The practice gained some traction when it was mentioned in the 2019 BBC series Years and Years, where a character’s funeral takes place at an ‘Aquratorium’.
‘This is going to replace crematoriums; all those bodies in cemeteries, taking up loads of space – the future is dissolving bodies in alkaline, rendering them liquids,’ one mourner explains.
The other replies: ‘What, like boil in the bag?’
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