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Alternative Way Of Disposing The Dead


Well, we all know about good ol’ religions. Religion is a social-cultural system of designated behaviors and practices, morals, beliefs, worldviews, texts, sanctified places, prophecies, ethics, or organizations, that relates humanity to supernatural, transcendental, and spiritual elements. Umm…that’s just googling.

Religions are characterized by performing different types of rituals. Rituals, I guess, I don’t have the need to describe it. After death, there are rituals of burying the dead or cremating the body on wooden pyres in crematoriums. These rituals, in the view of science, poses a threat as on burying a body, the soil gets polluted and if it is cremated, the vapours pollute the air and the wood and oil or ghee used, are fossil fuels, which needs to be sustained.

An alternative that can help conserve the environment is Alkaline Hydrolysis. This is a process in which a dead body is placed in a pressurized chamber (vessel). Then water and Potassium Hydroxide (KOH) or Sodium Hydroxide (NaOH) or a solution of both is added to the vessel. Here the temperature is brought to around 160°C. The pressure is increased so as to prevent boiling. Here, the body is effectively broken down into its chemical components, which takes approximately four to six hours. Lower is the temperature and the pressure, less the time it takes to breakdown the body. At the beginning of the process, the pH of the solution is strongly basic (around 14), but drops to 11 at the end of the procedure. The decrease in the pH depends on the total time taken for the procedure and the total weight of the body.

The result is a quantity of green-brown tinted liquid (containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts) and soft, porous white bone remains (calcium phosphate) easily crushed in the hand (although a cremulator is more commonly used) to form a white-coloured dust. The "ash" can then be returned to the family of the deceased. The liquid is disposed of either through the sanitary sewer system, or through some other method. Because this liquid contains all the type of nutrients, it proves worthful in the agriculture sector where it can be used for watering plants.

This alkaline hydrolysis process has been championed by a number of ecological campaigning groups, for using 90 kWh of electricity, one-quarter the energy of flame-based cremation and producing less carbon dioxide and pollutants. It is being presented as an alternative option at some British crematorium sites. The operating cost of materials, maintenance, and labour associated with the disposal of 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of remains was estimated at $116.40, excluding the capital investment cost of equipment.

Alkaline hydrolysis has also been adopted by the pet and animal industry. A handful of companies in North America offer the procedure as an alternative to pet cremation. Alkaline hydrolysis is also used in the agricultural industry to sterilize animal carcasses that may pose a health hazard, because the process inactivates viruses, bacteria, and prions causing transmissible spongiform encephalopathy.

Certainly, after all such information, it can be concluded that if used as an alternative to the existing procedures, it can help the earth sustain a century longer, if not more!

By Vedant Kabra

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