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Green last rites: Aquamation

For those who are keen to leave a light footprint on the Earth, here's one way to accomplish it — "aquamation", a new eco-alternative to burial and cremation.

world Updated: Aug 21, 2010 14:52 IST

For those who are keen to leave a light footprint on the Earth, here's one way to accomplish it — "aquamation", a new eco-alternative to burial and cremation.

With land for burials in short supply and cremation producing around 150 kg of carbon dioxide per body — and as much as 200 micrograms of toxic mercury —aquamation is being touted as the greenest way for disposing your mortal remains.

The corpse is placed into a steel container and potassium is added, followed by water heated to 93 °C.

The flesh and organs are completely decomposed in 4 hours, leaving bones as the only solid remains.

Aquamation uses only 10 per cent of the energy of a conventional cremation and releases no toxic emissions, said John Humphries, chief executive of Aquamation Industries in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia, who developed the technology.

The decomposition process, "simply speeds up the natural way that flesh decomposes in soil and water", he said.

Humphries says aquamation, unlike cremation, will not destroy artificial implants such as hip replacements, allowing them to be reused, says New Scientist.

And after the body is decomposed, "the water is a fantastic fertiliser", he said.