What is Aqua Cremation and is it truly a more environmental choice for my pet?

This question is usually followed by a large sigh and an in depth conversation of what truly is Aqua Cremation or Alkaline Hydrolysis.  And depending on what side of the fence you sit on at this moment, it truly is a topic that is heating up (no pun intended) in the pet aftercare industry.  Recently, I have been asked by clients, veterinary clinics and the general public what is this process that is supposed to be better on the environment than traditional cremation.  Since I am one who is impeccable of my word, I didn’t feel confident commenting on something I knew little about…so in the last year I have been doing extensive research on the process.  From research on line, speaking with the industry manufacture of the machines and seeing the process myself; I now feel confident to share my findings.

Due to the sensitivity of this process, please keep in mind through reading this post that I am not trying to be disrespectful to anyone who chooses this process or who offers this service.  I feel that we should know full disclosure what each process entails.  Also, to understand each process so you, the client, may choose the best for your pet.  I’m hoping to answer questions, simplify the process and to paint a clear picture — and in everything to be able to stand back and ask some questions.


So let’s start with the science- What is Aqua Cremation/Alkaline Hydrolysis?

In layman’s terms, Aquamation/Aqua Cremation or scientifically known as Alkaline Hydrolysis is the method of reducing a body to components of liquid and bone through a machine with a water and chemical solution.  (Usually 95%  H2O and 5% alkaline – Most commonly used alkaline is either Lye, Potassium Hydroxide or Sodium Hydroxide)


What’s the Process?

-The bodies of pets are prepared for the machine and placed in a cradle or basket and separated in compartments by a metal separator.  The pets are in an individual space but are placed in the same machine together.

pet aqua cremation

An example of a Pet- Bio Response Solutions Unit

pet aqua cremation

To learn more go to: www.bioresponsesystems.com

-Once all pets are in place and metal cradles and lids are securely and safely latched a chemical mixture is determined by weight of pets.  These chemicals of either lye, Potassium Hydroxide or Sodium Hydroxide are placed in machine.  The machine then fills with water.

-The water and chemical mixture then flows in an upward to downward motion- through the baskets/cradles to start the process. Some machines are made higher pressure–others lower.  Animal machines are generally a lower pressure cycle which will take up to 22 hours to complete one cycle.

-Standard pet machines are large enough to fit 14 cats/small dogs at once and/or a smaller number of pets of different array of sizes

-A full cycle for one cycle can use up to 380 gallons of water

-Depending on region (state/county/etc) “Waste Water” either goes down drain to sewer or can be collected and spread or sold as fertilizer.  

What happens after?

-What is left?  Wet Bones — that are then collected individually, placed on individual metal sheets and either placed in a sealed room with a humidifer for 24 hours and/or placed in convection oven for up to 2 hours.  This is in order to dry bones out in order to finish processing remains into the fine “ash”.

-Cremains, once dried out, are then processed in a standard processor and placed in an urn of the clients choice.

**The above process highlights a “Private Cremation Process” — Communals are handled much differently.


The good:

-Yes – No high heat or fire is used.

-Yes – Less “fossil” fuels are used at this level of pet cremation.  Larger Aquamation facilities, who have larger machines — different story.

-Yes – there are more “cremains” left than a standard fire cremation. about 15-20% more.

-Yes – only uses a hot water heater to heat water up to 125-200 degrees

-Yes- can use waste water as fertilizer


The bad:

-Lots of water used

-Waste water in drain ** What are long term effects of this?  They say the solution is sterile but how do you feel about the “organic” parts of the bodies being dissolved and going into the drain and/or collected as fertilizer?  This is a very personal decision that only you can answer for yourself or your pet.

-Many facilities, collect the “Waste Water”  in drums and have them collected and hauled off to sewage treatment plants

-Cycle takes 22 hours plus another 24 to complete process fully

-Still have to use a “oven” or humidifier to dry cremains out

-Cremains have a weird odor – can smell even in urn

-Companies are selling this service as a “private cremation” **By industry standards from the top associations do NOT classify this process as a Private Cremation

-Companies are selling as a “greener” more environmental way to go.  Although there are truths to this – there is a lot more to disclose here that most companies are not.  Be careful and do your own research.  


So there you have it-

This will be a multi part blog post (to revisit in the future) since there is just so much to cover.  I welcome your feedback and comments on this subject matter.  Please share your thoughts and experiences, whether it be as a pet aftercare professional or a client.  I’m hear to share knowledge I have gathered for you and your pet.  If you are interested in this process, contact us and we can recommend a facility close to you.  If you want to learn more- Bio Response Systems is the leader in the industry of manufacturing these machines for the human and pet industry.  Warning– this subject/images may be difficult for many.  Please proceed with caution.


Until next time…

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