Grieving the loss of a cherished pet is always a difficult and upsetting time, whether that family member had four legs, two, or even none at all. However, a new alternative to cremation or burial is becoming more widely known, and it involves the process of aquamation.
Aquamation is also known as alkaline hydrolysis, or water cremation, where instead of flame, water and an alkaline solution are said to accelerate the natural decomposition rate of the body and leave only bones behind.
According to the Compassionate Care Aquamation website, the mixture is 95 percent water and 5 percent alkali. This mixture includes a base that causes the water to separate into hydrogen and hydrogen ions; this is then heated to 95.5°C (204°F), breaking down the pet remains. The website goes on to say that this process takes around 18-20 hours.
According to Affordable Burials and Cremations, for human remains, the process can take between 6-8 or 18-20 hours based on the temperature of the equipment. Prior to the procedure, the body is placed in a bio bag made of organic material that will be broken down during the process.
Aquamation is becoming more popular due to the belief that it is more environmentally friendly than traditional cremation processes, and that the process seems to offer 20-30 percent more remains to be kept by the owner. Flame cremation, by contrast, can take around 1-3 hours and happens at a much higher temperature, therefore it is suggested that more carbon dioxide is released in flame cremation compared to aquamation. At the end of the process the calcium phosphate of the bones can be converted into ash to be kept in an urn, in the same way as at the end of a cremation.
Aquamation hit the headlines in 2022 after Archbishop Desmond Tutu requested the process for his death as a more eco-friendly alternative to cremation.
Aquamation is legal for pets in all 50 US states and legal for human remains in 28 states, although not all states have access to aquamation providers.