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Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu‘s funeral service on 1 January 2022 noted one of South Africa’s most iconic figures put to rest.
Archbishop Tutu will forever be remembered for his full of life efforts to combat inequality through compassion and love. In line with his beautiful nature, the SA icon also advocated for gentler earth stewardship.
Supporting this, the late Desmond Tutu was not cremated in the traditional sense but rather was aquamated—a new process far less harsh on the environment.
Aquamation is a new cremation method that uses water and is considered environmentally friendly. In fact, it is described by Avbob as a green alternative to flame-based cremation.
According to the funeral service provider, people have become more aware that municipal cemeteries are running out of burial space in recent years. Particularly in many major metropolitan areas.
Therefore, Avbob goes on to say that, at the same time, people have become more aware of the severe effects on the environment when using fossil fuels.
“With this in mind, the notion of green funerals has started to gain interest and funeral service providers have also started looking at the options available, not just to mitigate the space problem but also to reduce their carbon footprint. Aquamation, a greener alternative to traditional flame-based cremation, is one of the newer options available in South Africa.”
What is aquamation?
Alkaline hydrolysis, known as aquamation, but also referred to as flameless cremation, water cremation, and bio-cremation, gently mimics the natural organic process that the body undergoes when it is finally laid to rest in the earth.
According to Avbob, the process entails placing the body in a stainless-steel vessel and then reducing it to its basic elements using heat, pressure, and water with a high alkaline level (a combination of sodium and potassium hydroxide).
The end result is a harmless sterile liquid (free of DNA and RNA) that is disposed of through the municipal wastewater system, with the remaining bone minerals ground into a fine powder.
Who invented aquamation and its origin story?
Alkaline hydrolysis was invented and patented in the United States by Amos Herbert Hanson in 1888. Amos was a farmer who developed the method for producing fertiliser and gelatine from animal carcasses. It was first used to dispose of animal remains by the Albany Medical College in America in 1993. In 2006, the first machine for handling human bodies was used.
According to the company, AVBOB has been researching new, innovative alternatives to traditional burials and flame-based cremation for quite some time and has recently begun conducting intensive research into aquamation. This included visits to facilities in the United States, stakeholder consultations, and strategic planning. Aquamation was introduced to South Africa by the Mutual Assurance Society in November 2019.
What are the benefits of aquamation?
- It’s a gentle process that uses water rather than flame.
- It is a natural biomimicry process with no direct emissions of harmful greenhouse gases or mercury into the environment.
- It offers an energy saving of over 90% compared to flame-based cremation.
- Up to 20%-30% more ash remains compared to traditional cremation.
- It involves a minimal burning of fossil fuels.
- It uses very little water.
What are your thoughts on aquamation? Share your views in the comment section below.
Aquamation, the way to go. Clean, usefull and (unless exploited by commerce) economical.