Generally speaking, there are two main types of funerals: Those where the corpse is buried in a coffin and placed underground, or those where the body is cremated and the ashes are buried, kept, or scattered. Although there are some less conventional ways of burying a lost one – including turning them into a tree – a small town southwest of Ottawa, Canada, has just opted for what is perhaps the most controversial.
AquaGreen Dispositions, a company keen on its environmental credentials, is taking a page out of another sister company, Hilton’s Unforgettable Tails. These funereal pioneers use a powerful alkaline solution to dissolve deceased pets before draining their leftover, beige-hued sludge into the sewer system. And they've just been given a license to dissolve the remains of humans before dumping them into the drainpipes of Smiths Falls.
It’s essentially the same as a cremation process, but by using this gruesome chemical alchemy, a lot of energy is saved in the process. Up to 250 kilograms (551 pounds) of climate-warming carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere per average cremation, according to some estimates, whereas this process doesn’t emit any, and has a very small carbon footprint overall.
“It brings your body back to its natural state,” owner Dale Hilton told CBC News. “It’s the same way as being buried in the ground, but instead of taking 15, 20 years to disintegrate, it does it in a quicker process. And it’s all environmentally friendly.” Perhaps most oddly, any artificial joints or surgical material gained over a person’s lifetime are not dissolved in the solution; rather, they are kept and sent away to be reused in poorer countries that have a lack of such materials.
The pressurized corpse-dissolving chamber. Hilton’s AquaGreen Dispositions via Facebook
Although most of the body is turned into sludge, the skeleton survives the process. It is dried in a convection oven, squashed into a fine powder, and returned to the family in order to be scattered. Apparently, the business is growing in size every month, with environmentally minded grievers increasingly choosing their company over traditional cremations.
It’s difficult to tell what the wider nation, or the wider world, will think of the slushy remains of their loved ones drifting around in a sewer soup beneath their feet, but only time will tell.
This January, another slightly off-piste corpse disposal method made headlines. The so-called “Infinity Burial Suit” contains mushroom spores that grow out from your nutrient-rich body once you’ve been buried. You’re effectively eaten up by these mushrooms, which also neutralize any environmentally damaging toxins in your body.