Most people have probably never considered how decisions about their death could impact the planet.
When faced with the death of a loved one, British Columbians can only choose between burial and fire cremation.
A group in Kamloops is advocating change to provincial laws to include alkaline hydrolysis, also known as aquamation, as another choice.
Transition Kamloops is an organization focused on increasing local resilience and self-sufficiency in food, water and energy, while reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Transition Kamloops has joined the provincial efforts of the Aquamation BC Coalition for change to laws governing disposal of bodies.
“Most of us don’t really think about this until we’re in a stressful situation,” Transition Kamloops organizer Gisela Ruckert told KTW. “That’s not the time when we’re going to make any changes.”
That impact on the environment is what caught the attention of Transition Kamloops, which emphasizes a local economy, healthy ecosystems and grassroots community building, while reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Ruckert said that while the aquamation movement has been around B.C. for at least a decade, it’s just now gaining momentum.
Aquamation is already offered in Saskatchewan, Ontario, Quebec, Newfoundland/Labrador and the Northwest Territories In B.C., aquamation is only available to be used with pets.
“When you look at the bulge of Baby Boomers who are getting elderly, there is actually going to be quite a significant impact if we don’t give people lower carbon options,” Ruckert said.
Cremation is believed to release about 10-million kilograms of carbon every year in B.C. — enough to drive a gas-powered vehicle 1,000 times around Earth’s equator.
As an alternative to flame-based cremation and burial, aquamation is a process that uses heat and a solution of 95 per cent water and five per cent alkali (potassium hydroxide) to reduce all organic material, leaving only skeletal remains.
Ruckert said changes would need to be made to the provincial Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act to allow for aquamation to be a third option.
“There are two options for legalization,” Ruckert said. “A small housekeeping change in adding a definition to the existing regulations that cover cremation (an order in council) or legislation, changing the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act.”
Ruckert said she hopes the B.C. government chooses the first, less costly option to make the change, as Saskatchewan has done.
For more information on the Aquamation BC Coalition, go online to aquamationbc.ca.
How it works
• To begin the process for human disposition, the deceased is placed into a stainless steel vessel, to which an alkali solution is added.
• The process works by slowly circulating a heated solution of 95 per cent water and five per cent alkali around the body for an extended period of time.
• Alkaline hydrolysis is a proven sterilization technology in which all pathogens are destroyed, as well as all chemotherapy and embalming agents (if present in the body).
• Any mercury in the amalgam of the teeth (from dental fillings) is not vapourized through this process as it is with flame cremation.
• The dental fillings remain unaltered and are safely recycled to prevent release to the environment.
• All that remains at the end of the process are the final bone remains and any medical implants.
• The medical implants are clean and ready for recycling.
• Just as with flame-cremation, the final bone remains are processed into a fine powdered ash for return to the family in an urn.