Dying to be green? Try "bio-cremation"

Tue Dec 1, 2009 4:49pm EST
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Worried you haven't been green enough in life? Don't let death come in the way of a more eco-friendly you.

From coffins made of recycled cardboard to saying no to embalming chemicals that seep into the soil, people are increasingly searching for ways to make their final resting place a more environmentally-friendly one.

Now cremation, the choice today of a third of Americans and more than half of Canadians, is getting a green make-over.

A standard cremation spews into the air about 400 kilograms (880 pounds) of carbon dioxide -- a greenhouse gas blamed for global warming -- along with other pollutants like dioxins and mercury vapor if the deceased had silver tooth fillings.

On top of that each cremation guzzles as much energy, in the form of natural gas and electricity, as a 500-mile (800 kilometer) car trip.

Enter alkaline hydrolysis, a chemical body-disposal process its proponents call "bio-cremation" and say uses one-tenth the natural gas of fire-based cremation and one-third the electricity.

C02 emissions are cut by almost 90 percent and no mercury escapes as fillings and other metal objects, such as hip or knee replacements, can be recovered intact and recycled.

"The target audience are those people who buy organic salmon rather than farmed salmon. Those that buy a hybrid rather than a regular car," said Paul Rahill, president of the cremation division of Matthews International Corp.   Continued...