What Is Aquamation and What Is Left After?

The weeks following the death of a loved one can be a challenging time. Not only are we attempting to process the complicated emotions that come alongside our loved one’s passing, but we are also left with many choices regarding their post-life services.

While there’s no wrong way to lay our remarkable loved ones to rest, this is a deeply personal decision. Choosing between burial, donation to science, and the different forms of cremation is an opportunity to honor your loved one’s values even after they’ve passed on. 

Although many of us are familiar with flame-based cremation, a new form of cremation is gaining popularity. Aquamation is a liquid-based type of cremation that is considered more environmentally friendly than heat-based cremation. 

Understanding all of our options for post-life services can help us and our loved ones make a confident and thoughtful choice for our final resting places. Each option has unique benefits that can honor our impact and legacy for generations to come.

If you are researching different forms of death care or post-life services, here is everything you need to know about aquamation. 

What Is the Death Care Industry?

Death is a natural process that every person will face. Although we all process death differently, there will come a time when each of us loses an incredible loved one. When we make decisions regarding our loved one’s post-life services, we look to the death care industry for help.

The death care industry is comprised of the many end-of-life services that help us celebrate our remarkable loved ones and lay them to rest in a way that is honorable and hygienic. 

This includes everything from cremation and burial to providing funeral and memorial services. The death care industry is dynamic and varied with many options to honor different walks of life, religions, and personal preferences. 

The most popular forms of post-life services include burial and cremation. Each of these forms has histories stretching back centuries, and for many years earthen burials were the most common method of death care services. However, cremation has recently become the most popular form of death care, especially in the United States. 

Cremation

Cremation’s rise in popularity has both financial and sentimental explanations.

For many people, cremation is a more financially affordable option. While families can decide to have a traditional funeral service before the cremation takes place, we can also choose to forgo costs built into these traditional services like caskets and embalming through direct cremation. 

However, that isn’t to say that cremation takes away memorial opportunities for friends and family members. There are many ways that we can use cremated ashes to show how much we care for our remarkable loved ones. 

Whether we choose to hold a traditional funeral service using an urn in lieu of a casket, scatter our loved one’s ashes in an emotionally significant space, or create memorial jewelry, cremation provides plenty of ways to celebrate our loved one’s remarkable lives.

Aquamation

Aquamation is a newer form of cremation that is typically seen as a more eco-friendly alternative to flame-based cremation. This can make aquamation a wonderful choice for loved ones who were passionate about sustainability and the environment.

Aquamation is a form of cremation that uses a liquid solution to create ashes, rather than a heat-based process. If you’re curious about what aquamation entails, let’s look at exactly what aquamation is and how it’s unique from traditional cremation. 

How Is Aquamation Different From Cremation?

The cremation process traditionally used flame-based heat that transforms our loved one’s remains into organic materials like bones. Any materials that can’t be broken down by heat are physically broken down further into what we know as ashes.

Aquamation also breaks down remains into organic materials, providing ashes that are returned to surviving friends and family members. The difference lies in the way this ash is created — it uses a liquid solution instead of flame-based heat. 

How Does Cremation Work?

In flame-based cremation, remains are placed in a specialized oven at a crematorium that is called a retort. A retort is designed to hold remains specifically for cremation. This is a heavily restricted and regulated process to ensure that your loved ones’ remains are treated hygienically and with respect and dignity. 

For human cremation, each body is given its own retort. While we may choose to cremate our beloved pets in a communal or partitioned cremation alongside other remains, this is not allowed during human cremation.

This ensures not only that the body is treated with dignity but also that the ashes are never mixed or lost. The average body produces four to six pounds of ashes which can then be used in memorials to celebrate our incredible loved ones. 

How Does Aquamation Work?

The aquamation process involves transforming remains into ash through alkaline hydrolysis. It is considered more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient than flame-based cremation. 

During aquamation, your loved one’s remains are submerged in a stainless steel container that contains a liquid solution of 95% water and 5% potassium or sodium hydroxide. This solution has an extremely high pH level, which makes it alkaline in nature. Alkaline solutions are commonly used to help clean and sterilize equipment because they break down residual build-up well. 

In this solution, soft tissue undergoes what is known as alkaline hydrolysis. This is a technical term that denotes the breakdown of organic material due to the high pH of the solution. This process is 100% natural, unlike the conditions of flame-based heat cremation. 

Alkaline hydrolysis speeds up the remains’ natural process of being broken down over time, similar to earthen burial. This is one of the reasons why some people see aquamation as a more natural form of cremation with a smaller carbon footprint. 

The container that the solution and remains are held in is heated to catalyze the chemical reaction of emulsification. When the temperature and pressure are raised to specific conditions, the process of emulsification can happen within a day. 

What is left after aquamation is identical to what is leftover in traditional cremation, bone material, and any other substances that were not organic such as implanted medical devices. These devices are removed from the bones if they are present, and then the bones are collected and processed like in cremation. 

The result is a white, greyish powder that is commonly referred to as human ashes. These ashes are typically placed in an urn and given to surviving loved ones, just like they would be during flame-based cremation. 

Is Aquamation More Environmentally-Friendly Than Cremation?

Aquamation has a couple of different names, one of which is green cremation. This is because it uses significantly less energy than flame-based cremation. Also, because there is no active burning, there are fewer emissions when compared to flame-based cremation. 

If your remarkable loved one was passionate about sustainability and fighting for our environment, aquamation’s eco-friendly characteristics can be a deciding factor when choosing post-life services. While there is no right or wrong option when laying our incredible loved ones to rest, this is another way in which we can celebrate the remarkable lives they lived. 

Choosing End of Life Services

For some, earthen burials hold a special place in our hearts. Others may prefer their cremated ashes to be spread over an area that holds sentimental value, like a favorite beach or a beloved home. 

Other options like commemorative urns or even cremation jewelry are beautiful ways to honor our loved ones’ memories. Whichever end-of-life option you choose, you will be able to honor the legacy and impact of the remarkable diamonds in your life and hold their memory dear forever.

Sources:

Water Cremation: Better for the Environment | Healthline 

3 Reasons You Should Choose Cremation | VeryWell Health  

History of Cremation | Cremation Association of North America

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