UK council's plan to liquify corpses, flush them down the drain

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Christmas tree
A Christmas tree and candy canes adorn a grave in Arlington National Cemetery's Section 60 in Virginia December 22, 2015. Reuters/Kevin Lamarque

Corpses might soon be disposed through “water cremation” and get flushed down the drain. A UK council plans to turn dead bodies into liquid.

The Sandwell metropolitan borough council reportedly wants a new kind of crematorium. It can dispose of dead bodies with a unique technique that involves placing the bodies in a metal chamber that looks like a torpedo. There the corpses will turn into liquid and will be flushed down the drain, the Sunday Times reports.

“The funeral industry is evolving and modernising and we want to offer people more choice,” a spokesman for Sandwell council said, according to the publication. If the plan pushes through, the UK will not be the first country to use the said technique; it is already being done in some parts of the United States and Canada.

The council has given Rowley Regis crematorium permission to fit a water cremation device called Resomator. The pressurised tank will be filled with alkaline solution. It would take three hours for the machine to do that. The solution is heated to 152D. Flesh and tissues will be dissolved into a tea-coloured liquid and bones will be softened.

The bone is given to the family in an urn as the liquid’s pH level is tested. Once approved, it is poured down the drain at around 330 gallons per corpse.

While water cremation is perceived as more environmentally friendly compared to traditional cremation because it produces fewer greenhouse gases, it looks the strategy may need more time. Water company Severn Trent had supposedly declined to give a “trade effluent” permit to the council.

It argued that it does not dissolve bodies but only covers waste disposal. Severn Trent must give a permit before waste can be disposed of down the drain. A Water UK source reportedly said it had “serious concerns” about the public’s acceptance of liquefied human bodies getting into the water system.

For now, all options are being explored to get the machine installed. Water UK, Sandwell council and service provider Resomation are all working together.

Resomation’s founder Sandy Sullivan said he has already sold four machines to America. The machines, which are built in a workshop in West Yorkshire, are reportedly now being operated in Florida, Minnesota, California. Chicago may soon follow suit.

Sullivan said it was “organic, sterile and had no DNA in it.” Water cremation uses lesser energy than other techniques.