A greener way to go: what’s the most eco-friendly way to dispose of a body?


In the middle of a cavernous factory floor in Pudsey, Leeds, sits a gleaming steel cylinder. One day, its maker believes, most of us will end up in something similar.

The machine is a Resomator – a pressurised canister in which corpses are submerged in a mixture of 150C water and potassium hydroxide solution for three to four hours until the flesh is dissolved, leaving behind only soft, greyish bones. After drying in an adjacent oven, these are ground down into paper-white powder, while the fluid is sent to a water treatment plant for disposal. The entire process is operated by a touchscreen and a single “start” button, away from the view of mourners. Ashes to ashes no more.

The Resomator, its supporters say, is badly needed by a burial and cremation industry that is increasingly damaging to the environment. More than three-quarters of Britons now choose cremation over burial, a process that, on average, releases 400kg of CO2 into the atmosphere per body. Cremation fumes also include vaporised mercury from tooth-fillings, accounting for 16% of the UK’s mercury emissions in 2005, along with other toxic emissions from burnt prosthetics and melted bone cement used during common surgeries such as hip replacements.

Read the feature in the Guardian.

[This piece was published on 09/07/19]