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Resomation Q&A

The Co-operative Funeralcare has gone public about its backing of Resomation as an alternative to burial and cremation. Such support from the UK’s largest funeral provider obviously has significant implications for the funeral industry so FSJ asked managing director George Tinning (GT) and Sandy Sullivan (SS), founder of Glasgow-based Resomation Ltd, for further details…

The Co-operative Funeralcare has actually been backing Resomation since 2007. Why have you chosen to reveal this now?

GT: “The time is right to announce it because we’re unveiling our new ethical strategy. This is about giving consumers a wider choice and Resomation is part of that. We think consumers are ready for it.”

Why have you opted for Resomation rather than another alternative, such as Promession or Crymation?

GT: “Apart from its environmental benefits, we believe it has been tried, tested and proven.” [Resomation has been used on donated human corpses at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.]

What are its green credentials?

GT: Resomation Ltd commissioned independent research [from Sustain], which showed that it produces a third less carbon emissions and an eighth of the energy used in cremation.”

[Resomation Ltd’s website also says: ‘Resomation produces no airborne mercury emissions.’]

What chemicals are left at the end of the process and how will these be disposed of?

SS: “We put in a small amount of potassium hydroxide, which is reduced during the process to between 1000 and 10,000 times less, and with a vastly reduced PH level. This makes it pretty innocuous to deal with and local water authorities are happy with it going down the drain.”

What needs to happen before Resomation is available here?

GT: “There is no legal framework in place as yet so we’re lobbying for a change in the law. [Stakeholder meetings have already taken place between the Ministry of Justice, Resomation Ltd and representatives from across the funeral industry. Facilities will also need to have the Resomators and these could potentially go into crematoria or to woodland burial grounds.”

When is that likely to be?

GT: “The honest answer is we don’t know, but it’ll probably be years rather than months. Cremations started off in this country but with Resomation, although the process has been developed here, it will reach USA first. It is legal in Oregon, Maine, Florida and Minnesota, while Maryland and Colorado are well on the way. Ontario in Canada has also legalised it. The first Resomator is set to be installed in June in Florida.”

How important a role will education of the public play in getting the process accepted?

GT: “We will also need a general education process over the next few years. It won’t be overnight – from the first cremation to acceptance took 20 years – but our focus groups have shown no resistance to the idea.”

SS: “Neither burial nor cremation is well understood in terms of the processes involved but both are accepted. Something new happening makes people think more about of the benefits of a process. Our market research in both the US and the UK gauged what amount of information actually interested people and we found that, once they knew the environmental benefits, they didn’t want to know a lot of the detail.”

Resomation

Resomation is a process that dissolves the body to its chemical components. The body is placed in a silk bag then put in a metal cage frame and loaded into a Resomation machine, which is filled with a mixture of water and potassium hydroxide and heated to a high temperature at a high pressure. About three hours later, the end result is a small quantity of green-brown tinted liquid (containing amino acids, peptides, sugars and salts) and calcium phosphates, which are easily crushed in the hand to form a white-coloured dust.

What do you think?

The coming of Resomation is likely to have a significant impact on the funeral industry. How do you think it will affect you? And what are your thoughts on the issue? E-mail us at editorial@fsj.co.uk

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