August 30, 2011

"A green alternative to cremation... dissolving the body in heated alkaline water."

"Body tissue is dissolved and the liquid poured into the municipal water system. Mr Sullivan, a biochemist by training, says tests have proven the effluent is sterile and contains no DNA, and poses no environmental risk. The bones are then removed from the unit and processed in a 'cremulator,' the same machine that is used to crush bone fragments following cremation into ash. Metals including mercury and artificial joints and implants are safely recovered."

Or... try Promession:
Coffins are fed in one end [of a machine], and the body removed from the coffin within the unit and then treated with liquid nitrogen.

The body is then vibrated until the body fragments, after which the remains are dried and refined further, and then passed through filters to remove metals, including dental amalgam. The remains are then poured into a square biodegradable coffin, again automatically, for shallow burial.
And the whole thing is supposed to become soil fairly quickly.

Here's my question: Isn't old-fashioned burial greener? It's carbon sequestration, right?

123 comments:

Coketown said...

The greenest alternative is to never have been born.

chickenlittle said...

Here's my question: Isn't old-fashioned burial greener? It's carbon sequestration, right?

Overeating and weight gain while alive is a form of carbon sequestration--ask Al Gore.

After death, microorganisms break down the tissue into CO2 which finds it's way back to the atmosphere.
________
The alkaline treatment seems old: bodies treated with lye decompose faster.

John Smith said...

Eat the dead.

Chip S. said...

I plan to be preserved in alcohol. It just seems right.

chickenlittle said...

An interesting tangential question might be to ask how much CO2 would a human body produce if all the tissue's carbon were converted to CO2 and captured. I'm sure it would fill a nice sized gas balloon.

Surely, this number is already known.

jeff said...

I couldn't give a rats ass what they do with me once I'm dead. What with being dead and all. But I think they will have to address cultural issues before this sort of thing catches on.

traditionalguy said...

The Nazi scientists designed better and more efficient uses for dead people's parts. The needed lots of efficiency because of the mass costs they were about to incur to exterminate all of the Russians.

But why are they back??

Have Harvard Phds gotten their noses into the Nazi Archives stored in DC?

Frankns said...

Too much technology for my taste. Feels a little creepy.

I'm all in favor of mouldering in the grave in a pine box. Dust to dust and ashes to ashes.

MarkG said...

I'd like to be launched into space and set in an orbit around the sun for the next five billion years. That's the ultimate in carbon sequestration.

rhhardin said...

Feeding endangered condors is greener.

bagoh20 said...

Ya see, this is why I don't want to die. It's bad for the environment. I'm still busy sequestering.

Steve B said...

"Old fashioned burial" is greener, but only if embalming fluids aren't used. I seem to recall hearing that most states require bodies to be treated with the fluids, even if they are going to be cremated. I suppose if you're really into this green stuff you have to take into account the ecological cost of not only the chemicals, but the casket itself (all that mining of metal and logging of forests). Personally, I'd prefer a plain pine box and none of the fluids. Worm food in no time. But that's just me.

bagoh20 said...

Burial at sea in the Marianas Trench. Eventually you become a builder of mountains.

jimspice said...

"It's carbon sequestration, right?"

Only if you're buried 1/2 a mile deep. And the carbon contained in a person is not the issue as it is already a part of the life cycle. It's the carbon that is currently (e.g. old ferns and fishes that have been turned to coal, oil and gas) sequestered that we'd best avoid introducing into the system.

A simple, shallow pine-box burial would be the most environmentally friendly. The fossil fuel required to produce liquid nitrogen would likely rival that of cremation, if not more.

chickenlittle said...

I think people's bodies are carbon neutral in the sense that the carbon in tissues ultimately comes from plant sources. That's not to say that fossil carbon didn'r assist in the making of food stuffs. But a carbon-labeling study would show that the carbon was all atmospherically derived during that person's lifetime.

Hydrogen is a different story: consumption of partially hydrogenated fats should deposit fossil-fuel derived hydrogen in the body's adipose tissue.

Of course almost all nitrogen in the body is artifically derived from air using the Haber-Bosch process. This nitrogen is converted by amino acids by plants which we then incorporate.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
MarkG said...

Burial at sea in the Marianas Trench. Eventually you become a builder of mountains.

That'd be a good place to put nuclear waste as well.

Dustin said...

Donate your corpse to science.

Let some med student screw up his first transplant attempt with your liver.

Green? Fuck green.

I considered burning my house down, and then I didn't, so I get a very large sum of offset credits.

jeff said...

"I considered burning my house down, and then I didn't, so I get a very large sum of offset credits."

That's freaking genius. PLUS you get to know you're better than everyone else. I also will consider burning my house down and then not. In your FACE composting and recycling neighbor!

mesquito said...

"He's as smug and insufferable dead as he ever was alive. R.I.P."

edutcher said...

The Blonde believes in cremation.

Ashes to ashes.

Burial or cremation is about as green as it gets.

This smells like more carbon offsets. As with many things green, there's an air of scam to it.

AllenS said...

Hey, Professor, remember that post you ran a couple of years ago, about Ted Williams' frozen head being batted around by the employees of the cryonics facility?

How sick was that?

SteveR said...

Just don't have a funeral/memorial service. Set up a Facebook page instead. Very green, if that's your thing.

Peter said...

Yes, old-fashioned burial for me.
And never mind the "greener" bit, which just trivializes everything. So much of our civilization is tied into that. Though that (or Christian tradition) means nothing to the new barbarians around us.

Bob_R said...

This brought to mind the fact that I have not read Dune in years. Should I?

JayC said...

Soylent Green is people!

Mmmmmmm. People.

Bob_R said...

Old fashioned burial ties up useful land for generations. Horrible use of space.

AllenS said...

Bob_R said...
Old fashioned burial ties up useful land for generations. Horrible use of space.

That's very true. Why not bury people standing up, then you could dig the hole with a screw type auger. You could get a lot more people into a small area.

hombre said...

"Soylent Green is people!" (6:02)

Exactly!

Randy said...

Cremation for me. Add to my nephew's collection - he has his dog's urn and his grandfather's (my dad) urn on a shelf somewhere in his bedroom.

They were going to spread half my dad's ashes around Donner Lake (where my dad spent many a summer as a child) when they went up there not long after he died, but the snow hadn't melted. The other half were supposed to accidentally fall out of the urn while offshore of Newport Beach (where my dad spent almost all his time as a teen-ager). Ah well, then the dog died, and he'd never been to either place, but my dad was one of his favorite people.

My mom then suggested he could waiting until she was in an urn as well if he wanted to. She doesn't care where she ends up.

I figure why waste fuel driving each of us out somewhere he (and other family members) will never visit, so I'm advocating dumping us all in the nearby American River. Not my decision, though.

ic said...

Source for biofuel.

PETER V. BELLA said...

Green schmeen. If your're dead does it really matter?

Bob_R said...

What did it matter where you lay once you were dead? In a stagnant lake or in a marble tower on the top of a high hill? You were dead, you were sleeping the big sleep, you were not bothered by things like that. Oil and water were the same as wind and air to you. You just slept the big sleep, not caring about the nastiness of how you died or where you fell.

Triangle Man said...

An interesting tangential question might be to ask how much CO2 would a human body produce if all the tissue's carbon were converted to CO2 and captured. I'm sure it would fill a nice sized gas balloon.

The human body is about 18% by weight if Google is right. I leave the rest as an exercise for the reader.

tmitsss said...

That seems the perfect ritual for the new religion

kimsch said...

Burial at sea in the Marianas Trench. Eventually you become a builder of mountains.

They did that with Megatron, but he still came back...

Dust Bunny Queen said...

Does this post go along with the home invader post.

How to get rid of the body?

hoop said...

No DNA, you said? This alkaline water idea has some utility... ;-)

But like what was mentioned upthread, if we simply didn't embalm bodies and used degradable coffins, burial would achieve similar results.

And in response to 6:06, I know that Germany does vertical burials to save space. They also have some bizarre system where the family has to continually pay to rent the space. If they quit paying, I guess the body gets removed so somebody else's corpse can go there. (That's where my understanding gets fuzzy.)

Michael Gersh said...

The Zoroastrians in India have the right idea. Leave the corpse outside, and let the Vultures eat the thing.

Michael Haz said...

Buried conventionally in a cemetery, my wife and I next to each other for eternity.

A headstone with our names, birth and death dates. A heart machined into granite to silently tell dozens of following generations that we were lovers.

Silently awaiting the second coming.

gutless said...

"How much CO2 could a woodchuck, chuck if a woodchuck could chuck CO2? "

In the context of dealing with inevitable death, upcoming elections and wholesome future national demographics the best answer to the whole thing is to ask the Left to make a social sacrifice and eat shit and die ideally before Thanksgiving day. We can hire sufficient woodchucks to make it environmentally responsible post mortem. Have a wonderful day!

A. Shmendrik said...

Is this what ol' Jeff Dahmer was working on with those plastic barrels?

Tim said...

Blogs written and largely populated by Boomers have too much the odor of death about them.

Remember when we were young?

A long time ago.

chickenlittle said...

@Triangleman: I calculated the conversion of a 150 lb man into gaseous CO2 and he would fill an enormous balloon at STP! But CO2 is funny stuff and can easily be compressed or frozen into dry ice. To calculate how heavy of a block of dry ice you would make you can use this formula:

150 x .18 x 3.67 = 100 lbs. It's roughly a factor of 2/3.*

A dead man weighing 150 lbs could be converted to a block of dry ice weighing roughly 100 lbs.
________________
*Show your work: A 150 lb man contains 150 x .18 = 27 lbs of carbon. Using the factor of 3.67 for converting mass of carbon to mass of CO2 gives an overall conversion factor of about 2/3.

Lavoisier smiles in his grave.

m stone said...

Did someone say balloon?

Tim said...

She Blinded Me With Science

ndspinelli said...

How about a wood chipper?

MSG said...

Don't natural history museums use beetles to prepare skeletons for exhibit?

ndspinelli said...

Of course, you could "Eat the liver w/ some fava beans and a nice Chianti." Intestines for menudo. Kidneys make some mince meat pie. I could go on..but I'm not Carol Herman

chickenlittle said...

ndspinelli said...
Intestines for menudo.

Now that's just offal...

Tim said...

The Red Balloon

Dark Eden said...

This, like most 'green' things, seems like its more about self-loathing of humanity than about actually making the world a better place.

It feels like the 'green' movement has become almost totally hostile to human life.

Lisa said...

Some states don't allow the old fashioned burials.. except if it is religious perhaps.

Funeral homes had laws passed requiring cement crypts for the coffin to rest in and requiring embalming if a corpse travels over state line.

Yes, a simple cloth shroud into a hole is as green as it gets. In Israel, there are burial societies where it is considered an honor to care for the dead and the grieving family. And yes.. most (all?) burials are traditional. Wood plank, maybe a wood coffin, hole, cloth shroud. No chemicals, nothing inorganic between you and the earth.

It is hard to find that in the U.S.

chickenlittle said...

Lavoisier smiles in his grave

P.S. I do hope that he was buried along with his head.

Milwaukee said...

Actually, this would fit into a business scheme I'm investigating. It seems that in the U.K., and other places, if a perpetrator invades your home and you shoot them dead, the police will be after you. So, register with my firm in advance and we will clean up for you. We are developing a portable, bath-tub version of the body disposal machine. We just load the perp into the machine and plug it in. In just 4 hours he is down the drain, and there is no body for the police to investigate. No fuss, no muss. Whilst that going on, our highly trained crews will be wiping down the "home defense scene" to forensic standards. Heck, when we're done cleaning your place, the police won't even know you live there. Which is why we don't leave without instruction on how you can repopulate your prints every where. Remember, the important thing is to pay a retainer in advance, and then a monthly maintenance fee. Then, when the felon invades and you shoot, we'll clean up. We do ask that if there are more than one home invader you don't let any of them wonder off. Dead men tell no tales. (Make sure the numb nuts are dead before you call us.)

Milwaukee said...

Mark G.
Do you recall ELF? Extra Long Frequency radio? The Defense Department was developing it to communicate with underwater nuclear submarines. Seems Wisconsin has this massive block of granite they were going to use as a reflector. Well, forget Nevada for nuclear wastes, that site is riddled with limestone caves and water. That block of granite in Wisconsin is just the ticket for nuclear waste. Plus Wisconsin is more centrally located than Nevada is. Since Wisconsin hasn't been doing a lot of mineral development, that block of granite isn't full of mine shafts. Thank the environmentalist for saving the granite for something really useful.

m stone said...

I think spinelli is sounding more like Carol Herman each day.

Tim said...

Death everywhere among Boomers.

Remember sex?

Tim said...

m stone: So we are all Carol_Herman.

Freeman Hunt said...

Put me in a sack and dump me in a hole.

(After you let the med students cut around on me for a while.)

Why all this high tech stuff with a dead body?

Freeman Hunt said...

I like the way bodies are buried in Hong Kong, vertically instead of horizontally.

Tim said...

Buried vertically.

In China.

At your work station.

chickenlittle said...

Freeman Hunt said: I like the way bodies are buried in Hong Kong, vertically instead of horizontally.

Why not shelved in walls or catacombs horizonatally? It's even more efficient.

Tim said...

The Grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.

Freeman Hunt said...

I don't want to have to think about drinking anyone's stupid dead body, so I hope the alkaline water thing doesn't catch on.

(And yes, I understand that a decomposing body in the ground will encounter water which will run into groundwater supplies, but that is less direct and easier to ignore.)

Freeman Hunt said...

Drinking the dead bodies of weak, wan green obsessives. Gross.

I knew water was lame. Now it may someday be filled with the lame.

Tim said...

I knew water was lame.

That is why lips that touch water shall never touch mine.

Tim said...

Shiraz is an excellent substitute for water.

chickenlittle said...

Tim said...
The Grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.


Was that yours? very nice.

Graves have inspired some wonderful music, for example, In Memory of Elizabeth Reed.

chickenlittle said...

I knew water was lame. Now it may someday be filled with the lame.

Freeman, estrogens in drinking water are also a real concern.

Tim said...

Oh, I will not be mocked!

We all have been through 10th grade, no?

chickenlittle said...

@Tim: No mocking intended from my corner.

Tim said...

That is why I stick to Shiraz, or if that fails, Australian Chardonnay. A little Rhone is literally cheaper than water in France.

And beer is cheaper than gasoline in Germany.

Those Europeans have their priorities straight!

MadisonMan said...

I don't want to be poured down the drain. It just seems -- odd.

Cleanse me with fire.

Tim said...

chickenlittle: Ah, well that's Andrew Marvell, "To His Coy Mistress."

'A thousand years for each breast...'

timmaguire42 said...

I want proof that it won't hurt.

Tim said...

timmaguire42: "How would you know?"
—Barbara Graham, 1955

bagoh20 said...

I would like to be made into a turduckenbag.

kimsch said...

The Grave's a fine and private place,
But none, I think, do there embrace.


From Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress

The grave's a fine and private place,
But none I think do there embrace.

Now therefore, while the youthful hue
Sits on thy skin like morning dew,
And while thy willing soul transpires
At every pore with instant fires,
Now let us sport us while we may;

A Fine and Private Place: fantasy novel by Peter S. Beagle. He followed that up with The Last Unicorn.

If you like A Fine and Private Place, Edgar Lee Masters' Spoon River Anthology might suit as well.

wv: hydroppe

Tim said...

"Oh, there was a jolly Swagman
Who camped in a billabong,
Under the shade of a coolibah tree,
And he sang as he looked at the old billy boilin'
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda me darlin'?
Who'll come a-waltzing Matilda with me?"

JAL said...

Chip S is Stephen Greene.

Tim said...

Oh, it's only two hundred years for each breast.

Damn.

Tim said...

Everything I quote, I quote from memory.

A point of pride.

Shiraz may humble me yet.

chuck b. said...

I should like my carbon sequestered thusly

Tim said...

A diamond in the rough?
Or a Diamond in the Window?

The latter is a clue to my dwelling place.

Tim said...

But, chuck b remains as clear and sharp as ever.

Tim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
chickenlittle said...

@chuckb: 1 pound = 2268 carats!

There's a lot of diamond in one person!

Perhaps better to airy thinness beat,
graphene from pressure, luck and heat!

Tim said...

Well, I'm off to pay my respects to Θάνατος, and yet do my best to avoid him.

I really seek his brother,Ὕπνος, and you should, too, if you value your health.

LilyBart said...

NO.

Toshtu said...

I want to be stuffed and out on display at the Smithsonian, the first stuffed man.

It might start a fad with Russian gangsters, they'd get stuffed in their Mercedes. On their birthdays, relatives could tow them around town.

Everyone's been through the small world (after all) thing at the Disney Park, think just how cool it would be with stuffed Russian gangsters.

Big Mike said...

The good thing about being cremated or dissolved is that nobody can turn you into a zombie.

Tim said...

You may have to float on Λήθη to get through it, but Toshtu knows how to make a mean Small World ride!

Michael K said...

Funeral homes had laws passed requiring cement crypts for the coffin to rest in

Cemeteries began requiring vaults so the land would remain level. Easier on lawn mowers.

I asked my son to spread my ashes at the Transpac finish line in Honolulu. He seemed a bit more enthusiastic than I expected. Probably a good excuse for a trip to Hawaii.

Brian Hancock said...

If you come to my heated alkaline dissolving, I will come to yours!

William said...

If he should happen to outlive him, Hugh Hefner wants his ashes spread on Charlie Sheen. Charlie Sheen just wants his ashes hauled.

Phil 3:14 said...

Here's my question: Isn't old-fashioned burial greener? It's carbon sequestration, right?

So I guess a "real" conservative would rather be cremated on a huge bonfire heavily doused with gasoline.

Michael Gersh said...

The ancient Hebrews did it right - let the flesh rot off the bones for a year, then put the bones into a little box (called an Ossuary) and stick it in a family mausoleum.

EDH said...

Whatever enables my body to be snorted or injected by Keith Richards.

wdnelson93 said...

Pine box burial still legal in the 49th state. No outside entities need be involved. Get 'em in the ground within 24 hours and no embalming required. One benefit of living in a state where laws have to bend to the fact that some services that are unavailable in large rural areas.

July 5th a dear friend's husband died at 5 a.m. here in our largest city. Plot and casket purchased, family put his body in the box and transported it to the cemetary in the back of his pick-up and less than 12 hours after death his body was under the dirt. He got all he wished for in the end. Well loved family physician who lived and died frugally.

Scott said...

"Coketown said...

The greenest alternative is to never have been born."

The very first comment nailed it -- "green" burial as the last apology to Mother Earth for even existing. Humanity itself as the original sin. The ultimate manifestation of the over-the-top narcissism of environmentalism.

I used to work for a corporation that made plastics grinders for recycling. The kind that Saddam Hussein's boys used on living victims. Well, why not? 1960's radicals used to want to kill everybody over age 35, so let's get started.

Clyde said...

"Poured into the municipal water system"?! Shoot, might as well just call it liquid Soylent Green!

Gabriel Hanna said...

@Scott:The kind that Saddam Hussein's boys used on living victims.

Never happened. He was guilty of plenty of other and worse barbarisms--government-authorized rapists, for example--but that one is a myth.

As for the carbon-neutral snark, greens make themselves an easy target on this. Much of the green lifestyle involves changes in one's carbon footprint that are so small as to be in the rounding error--pennywise and pound-foolish, as it were.

Real changes are going to require massive conversion to nuclear power (with attendant economic disruption), which of course won't help any of the transportation issues, as there is no practical and portable way to store energy except in the form of gasoline and diesel.

Getting off fossil fuels realistically is a 100-200 year project.

Strelnikov said...

Actually, the most environmentally friendly body disposal of all is just to dig a hole and plant the untreated body - which then returns to the soil. Unfortunately, this is illegal in all 50 states - for environmental reasons. Also, do the processes in the article remind anyone of the Fremen water reclamation practice from "Dune"? I'm surprised we got there so fast.

neowolf2 said...

Alkaline dissolution effectively destroys prions, so it was used on cattle that died of mad cow disease. Even incineration isn't 100% effective for this; prions are extremely rugged.

As for disposing of nuclear waste in trenches: this is not the best idea, since some of the material comes back up in volcanoes fairly rapidly. Cosmogenic 10Be (T1/2 of 1.3 million years) survives in sufficient quantity to time this recycling. "Mud volcanoes" on the ocean floor may recycle even faster.

RebeccaH said...

After I'm dead, disposal is not my problem.

Joe said...

How about nuclear bomb vaporization?

Oligonicella said...

AllenS --

"...then you could dig the hole with a screw type auger. You could get a lot more people into a small area."

I do not want to have spent my life just to end up on a friggin' Japanese commuter train in death.

Oligonicella said...

Take my corpse and stick two sticks of dynamite up its ass, tie it to a post in a field - post the video on YouTube.

turtle said...

Would anyone like a nice little (Solent) Green cracker?

Nate Whilk said...

It would be cool to have one's skull used as a prop in "Hamlet", like Del Close wanted. However, apparently it's easier said than done. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Del_Close#After_life

wv: himphali

Teri said...

href="http://www.thinkgeek.com/caffeine/wacky-edibles/e9aa/?cpg=fbl_e9aa">

Soylent Green crackers.

http://tour-de-bike.com said...

I think you could find cheap caskets online every where but you need to find the very best quality at the best price

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James Curtis said...

In other words, cremation or
burial at sea long beach and resomation differs in the process of disposing bodies. The former uses fire while the latter uses chemicals to dissolve a body. Its not yet available in most countries but in Europe and North America.

Rodries Sumner said...

Thank you for this great information. I need to get some more information on cremation services. Does it cost a lot?

Jameel Johnson said...

While that sounds like a sound alternative to cremation, I would really prefer that peoples bodies are not dispersed back into the water system. Not only does that sounds wrong, but also cruel and inhumane. Just find the person some cremation services that will do it more effectively.

Bob Strong said...

I would certainly rather stick with cremation services. That doesn't tickle my fancy.

Lance Tankmen said...

Both of those things seem pretty crazy to me. I wonder who comes up with these ways to dispose of the body. I Wouldn't mind the one involving liquid nitrogen. I think I'll stick with the whole grave and coffin. http://www.charliehollisfuneralhome.com/Funeral-Services-Syracuse-NY.html

Seamus Lowe said...

I honestly didn't know there were options other than cremation and burial. In my family we've always done burials. Some have wanted to be cremated but changed their minds before passing. The alkaline water thing, though. That's something I've never heard of and it seems pretty interesting.
-Seamus | http://skylinememorialpark.com/Cremation/

Jamal Owens said...

I've been looking for some insights on cremation services, but haven't had any luck yet. There's so many things that go into finding a quality cremation service, and I don't know what to look for. This helped me understand it more, and I feel better about finding a service.

http://www.carememorialcremation.com/

Jak Manson said...

My grandma was cremated and we have her in an urn in our home. It is great to still have her around. I mean it is a bit creepy to think about, but it is really great. I know that I really enjoy that we could keep her though.
Jak Manson | http://www.herbwalker.com/what-we-do/funeral-services

Michael Williams said...

I think cremation is a hard hard decision to make. I often wonder what the person that passes away thinks about it. My aunt was cremated and I don't know where her ashes went I'll have to find out from a relative. http://www.cremationchicago.com/services.html