Water cremation: The environmentally friendly way to dispose of bodies

When someone dies there's usually the big decision of whether to bury or burn the body - but a new, environmentally friendly option is making waves overseas and could be coming to New Zealand soon.

Water cremation, or Alkaline Hydrolysis, is a more environmentally sustainable way of caring for the bodies of late loved ones.

During the process, the body is placed in a pressure vessel that is then filled with a mixture of 95 percent water and five percent potassium hydroxide. This process usually takes between three to four hours. 

After the cremation is completed, around one-third more bones than fire cremation are left and the water goes into the wastewater system. The bones are then ground to a fine powder and returned to the deceased person's family.

Water Cremation Aotearoa New Zealand founder Deborah Richards.
Water Cremation Aotearoa New Zealand founder Deborah Richards. Photo credit: AM

Water Cremation Aotearoa New Zealand founder Deborah Richards is hoping the practice will be legalised in New Zealand

"It's much more environmentally friendly than the options we have currently," Richards told AM. "It uses seven times less energy and there's six times less carbon emission.

"It's just much cleaner."

Water cremation is currently available in around 25 states in the US and in Canada, she said, and it's about to become available in countries like England, the Netherlands, Ireland and Finland. 

"We are hoping to bring it here as soon as possible. Our legislation doesn't recognise water cremation at the moment, it's just too new," Richards said.

She said Water Cremation Aotearoa NZ is currently working with the Government and the Ministry of Health to legalise water cremation and regulate the practice.