Alkaline Hydrolysis, The Future of Cremation
By Colin Benesch
FSS 254 Communications
Instructor, Rick Bilcowski
Submitted April 16 2018
A. Short overview of main topics
1. Pros and Cons of Alkaline Hydrolysis
2. Environmental Impacts
3. Publics Perception and Responses
4. Business Innovation
5. Legal Process
Pros and Cons of Alkaline Hydrolysis
Discuss and explain benefits of Alkaline Hydrolysis
Potential cost savings for families
Typically less regulated for zoning
Discuss and de-myth the negative affects of Alkaline Hydrolysis
Not currently legal everywhere
Slow turn around compared to cremation
Hollywood and bad publicity can cause the public to be effected by the “Ick Factor”
Discuss flame cremations impact
Look at figures of cremation emissions
Compare numbers to carbon tax and emission goals
Discuss fuel required to operate a crematorium
Discuss bi-product of Alkaline Hydrolysis
Discuss proper treatment of bi-product
Look at municipal water treatment of current sewage
Use studies to prove points
Opportunity for better recycling
Discussing the better options alkaline hydrolysis offers for recycling then flame cremation
Public and Professions Perception
Negative public responses and myths
Discuss the popular myths the public believes about Alkaline Hydrolysis
Discuss the potential for funeral professions reluctance to change
Ways to better the publics perception
Use of social media and promotional opportunities
Business Innovation/ Green movement
Why Alkaline Hydrolysis is going to benefit small funeral homes
Financial breakdown of owning and operating Alkaline Hydrolysis
Projections of revenue and price models
Compare and contrast Alkaline Hydrolysis and flame cremation
Analyzing how alkaline hydrolysis manufactures are promoting the process
Potential movement towards majority green cremation
What it would take for the movement to take off
Potential benefits of a full green cremation movement
Why it is important and necessary
Compare and contrast BC legislation to Saskatchewan
Look at Saskatchewan regulations and legislation and make conclusions of how BC can change
Where are we now in BC for changing law
Discuss current situation in where legalizing the process is
Rough projection of when Alkaline Hydrolysis will be available in BC
It has been proven by many scientists and environmentalists in the recent years that our technological advancements have lead to global warming. Although we now know about the destructive impact which we could have on the environment, we are still furthering our advancements, as opposed to finding solutions to minimize our harmful actions. This mentality has brought the environmental movement to the world. Now, businesses and scientists work together to create environmentally sustainable products to replace less efficient ones. A good example of this is the light bulb. Whereas an old fashion glass bulb draws 40-100 watts, a LED bulb only draws 7-20 watts. By improving old products, we improve our efficiency by both lowering our impact on the environment and by saving money for the consumer. The funeral profession must keep up with the changing times and get onboard the environmental movement. But how could this be accomplished? Currently there are only two legal forms of disposition in British Columbia, burial and cremation. Burial has a few options, some being more environmentally friendly then others. Traditional burial is the least environmentally friendly option, for there are grave liners around a casket with often an embalmed body in the casket. This is inefficient because an embalmed body will decompose at a very slow rate and a grave liner will slow down the decomposition of the body by keeping soil and insects away from the casket. On the other hand, green burial is much more environmentally beneficial for the body, as the body is never preserved through embalming. The body is also buried in a biodegradable casket or shroud directly into the ground with no grave liners. To make green burial even more environmentally sustainable, workers plant bushes and shrubs on top of the grave to help return protected forests to our communities. Although burials could be environmentally friendly, cremation is environmentally-damaging. As of today, there are two other alternatives being used in other provinces and countries that have less environmental impact than traditional flame cremation. The first of these alternatives is Promession, where the deceased body is frozen and vibrated down to bone fragments. This option is only available in Sweden and has yet to be introduced to western culture. The second option is the saviour to our situation, being used in fourteen states and three Canadian provinces, alkaline hydrolysis. Using water, heat and pressure, alkaline hydrolysis drastically speeds up the natural decomposition process leaving behind similar results as cremation. Like the light bulb scenario, alkaline hydrolysis offers great benefits to both the consumer and business owner because of its low operating costs and purchase costs, and small environmental footprint.
In this paper we will take a deeper look into the alkaline hydrolysis process and why it is so important to the future of cremation. We will start by looking at the pros and cons of alkaline hydrolysis and de-bunking some of the myths commonly associated with this new process. After, we will look into the environmental impacts of alkaline hydrolysis and its competitors. In this section, we will get better insight on the harmful effects of flame cremation. In the environmental section of this paper, we will discuss the exciting potential opportunities for the byproduct of alkaline hydrolysis. Following the analysis on environmental impacts, we will look into the public’s responses, thoughts, and concerns on alkaline hydrolysis. We will also take a short look at how to better inform our communities about the opportunities and benefits of alkaline hydrolysis. Next, we will look at alkaline hydrolysis from a business prospective. Here, we will look at some figures and discover what it takes to start offering alkaline hydrolysis in a funeral home today. We will also touch on why this can promote a better perspective on the funeral profession as a whole. Lastly, we will discuss the current legal process of getting alkaline hydrolysis passed in British Columbia Legislature, as well as a compare and contrast what Saskatchewan has done to allow alkaline hydrolysis in their jurisdiction. The goal of this paper is to inform the reader of the opportunity of making human disposition more environmentally friendly by using alkaline hydrolysis. It is my hope that the reader will understand all aspects of alkaline hydrolysis by the end of this paper and be inspired to get involved in the green movement.
Pros and Cons of Alkaline Hydrolysis
Lets start by taking a look at the positive aspects of alkaline hydrolysis, to get a better idea of why this technology is so important. First and foremost, there is little to no air pollutants such as mercury and carbon dioxide sent into the local atmosphere. This is very important as our current federal government recently passed a countrywide carbon tax to ensure that our country meet our goals set at the Paris Agreement in 2015. With flame cremation rates on the continuous rise in most provinces, we need a green alternative, so we in the funeral profession can do our part in helping our country meet our environmental goals. Not only is alkaline hydrolysis a green alternative, it is also less costly. The operating cost per average body disposed of by alkaline hydrolysis is between $20 and $35 compared to the cost per average body disposed of by flame cremation, which is between $60 to $100. Not just the funeral home benefit financially from alkaline hydrolysis, potentially the families they serve will as well. When using the alkaline hydrolysis method for disposition, the body must be placed unclothed and un-casketed into the machine. This means families will not be required to purchase a casket unless they want viewings or services, in which case they can use a rental casket for a fraction of the price. Alkaline hydrolysis also gives funeral homes a competitive advantage over their competitors. Most importantly, it also provides families with more options in disposition choice, giving the people who feel strongly about their environmental footprint an opportunity to be safely and inexpensively laid to rest.
With all these positives, why are we not using alkaline hydrolysis already? This is because we do not have legal access to alkaline hydrolysis in British Columbia. Currently alkaline hydrolysis is legal in three provinces and fourteen states in United States of America; the three provinces in Canada are Saskatchewan, Quebec and Ontario. With one of the highest cremation rates across all provinces it is mind blowing that British Columbia has yet to allow for alkaline hydrolysis. With a New Democrat Party coalition government with the Green Party, we can hope to see our province joining the movement to funeralizing alkaline hydrolysis soon. The push towards having the government of British Columbia approve alkaline hydrolysis is going slower than expected due several reasons. One of these reasons is that some in the funeral profession that are resisting the push for change for they do not see the value in it for themselves. This may be due to the fact alkaline hydrolysis takes longer than flame cremation to complete the disposition or it may because of other factors. True enough, the slow turnaround compared to flame cremation is definitely one of the less appealing aspects of alkaline hydrolysis. However there are solutions to this with different models that can accomplish the disposition at closer time frames but at a higher operating cost. A more critical reason as to why British Columbia has not allowed alkaline hydrolysis to be used for disposition of human remains is because the general public has not shown enough support or interest in the process. This in my opinion is because of the ick factor and lack of promotion of alkaline hydrolysis. Hearing that one’s loved one will be dissolved in water then flushed down the sewer can be a hard and scary thing to fathom. With this image in the consumers’ minds, they will likely also believe that there is a risk of diseases being spread through alkaline hydrolysis. This is far from the truth for many scientists have done in-depth studies on the byproducts of alkaline hydrolysis and its potential threats. They have found that alkaline hydrolysis destroys even the hardest to kill pathogens, such as prions and infectious RNA and leaves the byproduct completely sterile and safer then our own fecal matter in the sewage system. Currently, Victoria’s Capital Regional district has found shellfish with prescription drugs in their systems off the provincial coastline. The article states “Monitoring by the Capital Regional District has found high concentrations of antidepressants as well as other pharmaceuticals and personal care products in shellfish near the sewage outfalls around Victoria” (Wilson, 2018). These shellfish are getting these drugs through our sewage system being pumped into the ocean. If one was to add alkaline hydrolysis byproduct to this pollution, one may help the oceans by adding nitrogen in a sterile form to be used in seabeds. The proper education to the public on the byproducts of alkaline hydrolysis will be crucial in getting more people on board with this new opportunity for a greener tomorrow.
In order to get a better understanding of the environmental impacts of alkaline hydrolysis, lets first take a look at what is currently going on with flame cremation today in British Columbia. In 2011, Statistics Canada recorded 35,325 deaths in BC with 29,000 of these deaths choosing cremation for their disposition. So if we take those 29,000 deaths and multiply them by the average kilograms of carbon per body, we can get a close estimate of the total carbon pollution contributed by flame cremation. An average body will pollute 320 kilograms of carbon into the air, multiply this by our 29,000 deaths in 2011, and we get 9,280,000 kilograms of carbon released into the air that year alone. If we could get a small percent of people who would typically cremate to use alkaline hydrolysis instead, we can lower this number drastically. In a study done in Portugal, a team of scientist examined the effluent of sevearl different ways to dispose of bodies to learn if there was any concern for the byproduct. In their study, they found that the “major drawback of incineration process is the possible issue of a wide range of hazardous pollutants including dioxins, furans, heavy metals, fine dust particles and other pollutants resultant of incomplete combustion” (Pinho, 2016, p.__). None of these pollutants are healthy for our society and atmosphere. Let’s just say we convince one out of five cremations to go with alkaline hydrolysis- we could have lowered the 2011 carbon emissions by 1,856,000 kilograms of carbon that year alone. This may seem like a small win, but it with these small wins across all professions and industries, we can make a difference and become leaders in the world for environmental influence. We also have to acknowledge the fact that flame cremation requires natural gas for its process where as alkaline hydrolysis uses water and electricity to achieve its goals. By helping the world consume less natural gas, we will be promoting our society into discovering more stable and cleaner ways to produce energy.
Now we will look deeper into the byproducts of alkaline hydrolysis and learn more in-depth about what the outcome is. The process of alkaline hydrolysis has been used for many years now with respect to disposing of animal remains. When mad cow disease broke, out we needed to find a way to dispose of these carcases in a safe manner. We know the disease is caused by a prion, which is an acellular pathogen that is incredibly hard to destroy. So much so that most jurisdictions told embalmers not to embalm deceased cows with mad cow disease for they could be at risk of contracting this deadly disease. After extensive testing, scientists discovered that the alkaline hydrolysis process would completely destroy the infected cow carcass as well as the disease infecting them, and leave only bone structure and a sterile nitrogen- rich byproduct. This is proven in a study done in Croatia, where they looked at the efficiency of alkaline hydrolysis method in environmental protection. They had this to say about the results of alkaline hydrolysis: “Alkaline hydrolysis gives positive results in harmless destruction of prions and as such it proved very efficient in disposal of high-risk animal waste” (Kricka, 2013, p.__). In addition, scientists realized that the byproduct of alkaline hydrolysis could potentially be used to enhance growing of plant life because nitrogen in very important to plant growth. In another study done in Croatia, they tried to determine if high-risk biodegradable waste from alkaline hydrolysis of deceased animals could be used for other purposes and this is what they discovered that it could be “used in agriculture as organic fertiliser” (Kalambura, 2011, p.__). We know they are talking about animal byproduct uses in this study, but it poses an interesting question of what can we do with the byproduct of human remains through alkaline hydrolysis. If the byproduct is sterile and nutritious, we should indeed try and find a suitable use for it. So, I propose the idea of taking the byproducts of alkaline hydrolysis and using them to fertilize the forests and fields burnt in wildfires that plague British Columbia every summer. This would have to be done correctly and safely to work, but the benefit could be drastic. This would also help correct the future issue of municipal sewage systems in Victoria, the capital city of our province. As of right now, the sewage from the people of Victoria is being mildly treated and then released into the ocean. Alkaline hydrolysis may pose an issue for these out-dated water treatment centers of most of the municipalities. The solution to this would be to have a holding tank. The byproducts of human remains via alkaline hydrolysis are typically at a higher PH level then what is commonly dumped into the sewer system. With a holding tank, one could correct the PH level before releasing the byproduct to the sewer system or better yet, send the byproduct to remote forests to be used in restoring the land.
Through alkaline hydrolysis, one can also be encouraged to aid the environment by recycling. For example fillings in teeth often have mercury in them, and when flame cremation takes place, the extreme heat evaporates the mercury and sends it into the atmosphere. On the other hand, when alkaline hydrolysis takes place, the filling will be extracted after the process via a magnet and a special processing machine that is designed to extract all the metals from the remains to be recycled. Alkaline hydrolysis also offers ways to give back to the less fortunate by allowing for the donation of the deceased’s clothing (if the family gives their blessing), since clothingt will not be required in the alkaline hydrolysis process.
Public and Professions Perception
We will begin this section by looking at the negative responses against alkaline hydrolysis from the public’s point of view. The most common negative aspect about alkaline hydrolysis process is the byproduct being flushed into the municipal sewage system. Many in the public find the notion disgusting and potentially hazardous. This is only half true, as we learnt from the environmental section of this paper that the byproduct is actually sterile and possesses no harm to the waste management system. This being said, there may be municipalities with out-dated waste management systems that will require the PH level in alkaline hydrolysis byproduct to be brought down. However, this is a simple obstacle to overcome. In general, I have found the public’s response to alkaline hydrolysis to be quite positive; the public seems to be receptive to this alternative form of disposition. This is largely due to the low environmental impact of alkaline hydrolysis. I have also heard multiple times from different people that they like the idea of being calmly dissolved into water, as it is more peaceful than burning our bodies into ash. Now, let’s look at the negative perceptions of the funeral profession. I have heard many times already from funeral directors around the province that alkaline hydrolysis is a fad and will die out quickly. I always respond to this by reminding those funeral directors that forty years ago, people said the same thing about cremation, yet fast forward to the present, the cremation rates in British Columbia are the highest across Canada. In a province with a large population of environmentally conscious people, it seems absurd that alkaline hydrolysis will just be a fad. In truth, alkaline hydrolysis will not replace cremation around the world, but I believe it will make enough of the population in urbanized cities want to make the greener decision. A man from Wyoming by the name of Kent J. Lasnoski did a study on the Catholic Church’s perspectives on alkaline hydrolysis to see if it is considered morally distinct. In a section of his paper he goes over the pros and cons of each method of disposition ending with alkaline hydrolysis. He stated that “alkaline hydrolysis ranks highest because it is least burdensome economically and contributes the least to the environmental degradation and public health risks” (Lanoski, 2014, p.__). I could not have said it better myself, although it should be noted that he also spoke very highly about true green burial as well. His study concludes green burial as the most expressive way of disposing of a loved one in the church’s eyes, but that is because the bible hold little importance on environmental impacts, for they focus more on the resurrection of the body.
So how do we get more support for alkaline hydrolysis? We can see that the negative thoughts about the process are mostly false, for the disposal of the byproduct is very harmless to the public. In order to get more support for alkaline hydrolysis, we need to educate the public more and address their concerns head-on with facts and science. Once the public sees the environmental implications of allowing alkaline hydrolysis, there will be more support. We have a world connected by the Internet and the easy access of knowledge 24/7 which we can use to our advantage. Through educational posts, videos, and articles, we can inspire the general public to add their name to the support group currently lobbying government for change. As for changing the negative perspective in today’s funeral profession, there is little we can do. Only time will show them the errors of their ways. As the old saying goes, “You will miss 100% of the opportunities you don’t try.” A man in Virginia USA wrote a paper about funeralizing alkaline hydrolysis, suggested that “AH (alkaline hydrolysis) may offer funeral directors a way to maintain their professional authority over the corpse, and to keep eco-conscientious funeral consumers within the fold of professionalized and industrialized funeral protocols by providing a purportedly greener alternative to embalmed, earth burial and incineration” (Olson, 2014, p. __). In order for government to change laws, they must first know if it is what the public wants. With a large- enough support group of both the public and funeral professionals alike, we can get the government to make the necessary changes to allow alkaline hydrolysis in British Columbia.
Business Innovation and the Green Movement
Why would any funeral home want to purchase and operate an alkaline hydrolysis unit? Let’s get to the bottom of this by looking at the numbers. The cost of purchasing a cremation unit ranges from $125,000 to $180,000 depending on the unit. As for alkaline hydrolysis units, they sell for a price anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000, depending on the model. Although $25,000 may seem like a lot of money, when you look at operating costs, the tables turn. Flame cremation takes a lot of natural gas to operate and this costs ranges from $60 to $100 per body, depending on circumstances. As for alkaline hydrolysis, operational costs consist of mainly water and chemicals, costing around $20 to $35 per body. In order to offset the $25,000 unit cost difference between both disposition units, we have to look at the savings in operational costs. With an average of $55 in savings in operational costs per body, an alkaline hydrolysis unit can payback the $25,000 cost by serving 455 families. This should not be hard to do for a funeral home with a decent average call volume. By offering alkaline hydrolysis as the main option for disposition, the funeral home should be able to convert around 1/3 of families to alkaline hydrolysis. The payoff isn’t instant, but gradually it will increase revenue for the funeral home. The option of alkaline hydrolysis can be seen as a specialty service, which often come at a higher price. Funeral homes may decide to price alkaline hydrolysis higher than their cremation costs to further increase their financial gains. Although I believe the costs should be in comparison with flame cremation, it is up to the funeral home owners to price they way they see fit. So, with less operational costs and less man-hours required to operate we can make an educated assumption that alkaline hydrolysis has its long-term financial benefits. Let’s finish the financial review of alkaline hydrolysis by looking at the timeframe it would take to make money off an alkaline hydrolysis unit. The consumer cost of flame cremation in greater Victoria is $600 per body as set by the municipally owned crematorium. The cost of a high-end alkaline hydrolysis unit is $200,000. If we divide the cost of a high-end alkaline hydrolysis unit by the cost of flame cremation per body, we get 334. That’s how many families would be required in order to pay off a high-end alkaline hydrolysis unit. In the region of Victoria, most funeral homes do around 300 funerals a year on average. This means we can assume an alkaline hydrolysis unit will be paid off in 2-3 years. We have learned here that it is very feasible to afford an alkaline hydrolysis unit, compared to buying a flame cremation retort.
We should stop and take a minute to look at how the manufactures of alkaline hydrolysis units are promoting the process. There are currently two companies offering alkaline hydrolysis units in North America. The first is a company is Bio-Response Solutions and the other is Matthews Cremation. They both take a similar approach on their websites in explaining and promoting alkaline hydrolysis. Starting with Bio-Response Solutions’ website, we can see that their message is clear. Under their benefits to families sections they say, “Alkaline hydrolysis offers families the opportunity to contribute to a gentle, greener process. Families can make a lasting contribution to the environment on behalf of their loved one by making the decision that saves energy and reduces pollution” (Bio-Response Solutions, 2018). It is obvious that this company is trying to capitalize on emphasising the environmental benefits of alkaline hydrolysis, but they do so in a very upfront way. When we look at Matthews Cremation’s approach, we can see they have a similar message, but it is harder to find. Unlike Bio-Response Solutions, Matthews Cremation have no mention of alkaline hydrolysis on their homepage. Instead one has to look under their equipment section in order to see the information regarding alkaline hydrolysis. Here’s what they have to say to the consumers: “ Bio Cremation is a process that is gentler and more environmentally friendly than traditional flame-based cremation” (Matthews Cremation, 2018). The message is the same but they take different approaches for they have different goals. Since Matthews Cremation sells flame cremation retorts, they do not want to make their products look bad by heavily promoting alkaline hydrolysis on their home page, Howoever, since Bio-Response Solutions only sells alkaline hydrolysis units, they want the message strong and upfront.
Now, let’s take a look at the environmental movement and how we can capitalize on the social concern of the impact we have on our planet. In order to get more environmentalists to support alkaline hydrolysis, we need to start by educating them on how the process works and its benefits. With the recent implementation of a carbon tax from the federal government, we can see our society starting to move away from toxic pollutants (such as fossil fuels) and trying to move to more sustainable energy sources. If every profession and industry put forward one new technology or product to lessen their carbon footprint, we would see a large shift towards the right direction in meeting our carbon goals set out in the Paris Climate Agreement. Alkaline hydrolysis is our profession’s way to do our part in limiting our environmental impact on the west coast. With an 80% or higher cremation rate across British Columbia, we can hope that the addition of alkaline hydrolysis would take 30% of those cremations and make them green. This small amount would still see our carbon emissions lower significantly. So, why are we not starting today? All we can do today is promote and advocate for the wonderful benefits of alkaline hydrolysis through news reports, speaking engagements, radio talk show, and other forms of social networking. Our company’s goal is to offer alkaline hydrolysis as our main form of disposition, while only using flame cremation if requested. We hope that this would encourage more families to use alkaline hydrolysis. If we reached our company’s goal of converting 80% of our cremations into alkaline hydrolysis disposition, our funeral home alone would eliminate 105,600 kilograms of carbon emissions from polluting our air. If one funeral home in every major city and town in British Columbia did something like this, we could really make a large impact on how much carbon emissions are released in our province’s air. The only way to make that dream come true is by getting alkaline hydrolysis passed legally in British Columbia, then showing a proven working model of it to other funeral home owners. In addition, a potential government grant for owning and operating an alkaline hydrolysis unit may also increase the potential to lower our carbon footprint. Lowering our carbon footorint by any amount will have beneficial impacted on our society and future. By working together as a profession and society, we can do our part in preserving our earth for future generations.
Here, we will talk about the legal process to getting alkaline hydrolysis passed in the British Columbia Legislature. We will start by looking at what Saskatchewan has done to implement alkaline hydrolysis in their region. If we turn to the Funeral and Cremation Services Council of Saskatchewan, we can see that they have three bodies of legislation: the act itself, the regulations, and the bylaws. If we look at the bylaw section of their legislation, we can see right from the definition page that alkaline hydrolysis is accurately defined and included under the definition of cremation. Under section 1000 of their by-law definition page it states, “(b) alkaline hydrolysis, is a process whereby human remains are placed in a pressure vessel containing water and potassium hydroxide. With introduction of heat and pressure the human remains are reduced to bone fragments. (c) cremation, includes alkaline hydrolysis” (Government S. , 2017). We can see that they took the most practical approach to legalizing alkaline hydrolysis for human disposition. By changing the bylaws instead of the acts themselves, governments can implement changes much more quickly. This is because the legal process for bylaw changes requires only an order in council and not an official reading in parliament. All British Columbia has to do is add and change a few definitions in the current Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act. Even better, government officials can add a small section to the act laying out some conditions for controversial areas of alkaline hydrolysis. The definition which currently exists for cremated remains would be the only definition requiring modification to include alkaline hydrolysis. The act currently says in part 1 – definitions “ cremated remains, means human bone fragments left after human remains are cremated” (Government B. , 2004). This should simply be changed to “humans bone fragments produced through cremation or alkaline hydrolysis”. Other than this one definition, there is not a lot more to be changed. Although the addition of defining alkaline hydrolysis is critically necessary, there should also be small subsections around rules and regulations for operating an alkaline hydrolysis unit. In these subsections, government officials could set a rule regarding the operation of alkaline hydrolysis units. I suggest that only funeral home directors should be allowed to operate an alkaline hydrolysis unit. Unlike flame cremation, where a deceased’s body is burnt in a container of some sort, alkaline hydrolysis does not have a barrier between the deceased and the operators, for the deceased is unclothed when place into the alkaline hydrolysis unit. To best protect the safety and sanity of the public, we should restrict operating an alkaline hydrolysis unit to those who are properly educated in the risks of handling a dead body.
Now that we have learned about how the law was changed in Saskatchewan and how it could be done in British Columbia, let’s take a look at where our province is at in the legalization process. Before we get into the details of where the process is at, we should first discuses some history of where this information is coming from. Two years ago, in June, I joined my family’s business, Earth’s Option Cremation and Burial Services. Once enrolled in the schooling program for funeral directing, I spent a lot of time thinking of new ways and opportunities to better our family business. I had a few critically important criteria for a new venture for our company. Knowing I wanted to find something that was going to benefit both the environment and our company, I started to look into Promession and alkaline hydrolysis. Through many conversations with my father Chris Benesch, the owner and founder of Earth’s Option, we decided to pursue both alternatives to disposition with the intent to bring one of these new technologies to our funeral home. After doing extensive research and communicating with producers of these technologies, we found alkaline hydrolysis to be the more consumer- and business-friendly option. With that done, we set our sights on getting alkaline hydrolysis passed in the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia. Starting in August of 2017, we sent emails to the Minister of Public Health, Mike Farnworth, who replied with much interest. He assigned one of his administrators by the name of Toby Kwan to our cause. Kwan would be in charge of setting up the meeting between government officials and the funeral profession. The date of this meeting is suppose to be set for early summer of 2018, although it has yet been confirmed. On March 23, 2018, Chris Benesch had a private meeting with Mitzi Dean, an NDP member of parliament, on the topic of alkaline hydrolysis. She was again very interested and showed much support for the idea and agreed to speak with Minister Farnworth and to get the meeting date set. We are currently hoping to have alkaline hydrolysis as one of the topics of the reading during the 2019 spring legislation reading. Since we are currently waiting for government to set the meeting, we have turned our sights on public support. Presently, we are in talks with multiple news companies in the hopes to get some interviews and talk show opportunities in the near future. We have already been on a few radio talk shows in British Columbia, but we are still looking for others to work with. We have gathered support from the Independent Funeral Association of British Columbia, as well as British Columbia Funeral Association from the professional standpoint. So, we have the ball rolling in the right direction -now we just have to play the waiting game with government. In order to speed up the process, we must gather as much public support as possible and to get the people to put pressure on government. With the power of the people, the alkaline hydrolysis dream can come true and we can make a difference in our profession towards a greener tomorrow.
Now that we have learned about the pros and cons of alkaline hydrolysis, the environmental impacts, the public’s and profession’s perceptions, how funeral businesses can capitalize on the green movement, and the legal process of alkaline hydrolysis, we can make an informed opinion for ourselves. Do we want to contribute to our future and our world? Or do we want to resist change and focus on holding onto what we have? The time for change is now and it will take a united society to make a difference. We must do our part as a profession to lower our carbon footprint by offering our families a greener alternative to disposition. A famous environmentalist by the name of Al Gore once said at a climate change program in Delhi, “When politics is too slow, change has to come from culture” (Gore, year). Mr. Gore hit the nail on the head with this statement regarding alkaline hydrolysis in British Columbia- our government is too slow. In order to make a greener tomorrow in the funeral profession, we must get the support from our communities and cultures. With enough voices behind us, we can get government moving quicker towards legalizing alkaline hydrolysis for human disposition. Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has” (Richardson, 1982, p.__). Well, let’s hope Margaret is right, for we have a small group of committed people working towards making alkaline hydrolysis a reality in our province. Let’s just hope the change comes sooner rather than later. Alkaline hydrolysis is the future of disposition, so let’s bring the future to the beautiful west coast of Canada!
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