Sustainable funeral technology washes away the competition

A new aquamation technology started in Bowen is pioneering an innovative and environmentally conscious change for the funeral industry, by allowing Australians to preserve their loved ones in liquid form.

DISCUSSIONS around end-of-life care are never easy. The living shy away from the subject and those whom it most affects are not in a position to provide an opinion.

Traditional funeral processes – burial and cremation, come with huge financial and environmental costs.

Over the past two decades, there has been a heightened focus on implementing sustainable and affordable green business practices; it is only natural that the funeral industry has had to step up and develop a solution that is accessible and carbon neutral.

Until recently there have only been two options for handling the deceased.

Traditional burials require the use of toxic embalming fluids and chemicals, which gradually work their way into the soil and underground waterways.

Consider this– your average cemetery contains enough embalming fluid to fill a small swimming pool.

Alternatively, a single cremation uses the equivalent energy that one person would use in an entire month; enough to power a football stadium.

Whitsunday Funerals owner, Jeff Boyle, has developed The Gentle Way water aquamation system which only uses enough energy to light a small office.

“The Gentle Way system produces little noise, no smell, no smoke, and as it uses solar power and solar hot water, there are no greenhouse gas emissions whatsoever,” Mr Boyle explains.

The Gentle Way system involves placing the body into a water-soluble bag, saving the significant cost of a coffin.

For those families wishing to have their loved ones present at the service, there is a cost-effective solution. Rather than spend over $4,000 on a casket, Mr Boyle says

his system enables those who wish their loved ones to be placed in a casket, the opportunity to rent one – resulting in significant cost savings.

“Some family members say they want mum in a nice coffin so we have made a change to that as well. We have a Tasmanian blackwood casket, which would normally cost around $4,500, the end opens up and has a stainless- steel tray inside.

The family rents it for a minimal cost and they get a luxury casket. 

“I’ve been saying for years that cremating a casket is a huge waste of money. People organising cremations ask if they have to have a coffin but the law says clearly that you must have a coffin that meets the Australian standards otherwise you are breaching the law. Our method means everyone gets that beautiful casket.”

Mr Boyle explains how the Gentle Way system works, mimicking the process of alkaline breaking down the body in the ground, reducing the body matter to bones.

“We place the body into a perforated basket, then into a stainless-steel chamber. We add warm water and artificially raise the alkalinity of the water,” he explains.

“The water is sprayed over the body, much like a shower head does, for approximately 10 hours, slower but very gentle.

“The product we use is potassium hydroxide, or better known as Lye, a common ingredient in liquid soap.

When you put your hands in dishwashing liquid for a long time the skin wrinkles. Don’t try this but if you put your hands in hot water for 10 hours the skin will completely break down and just leave the bare bones.

“Once the Gentle Way machine has completed the process, bone fragments and liquid are all that’s left.

“After the process is over, we return the water to PH 7.4 neutral, then transfer it into our own water treatment plant, where we filter the water back clean, to be used again.”

The fine membrane filter is then backflushed which drops approximately half a cup of water into a rose bush or tree of choice to provide a living memorial containing the DNA to loved ones.

It has been reported by some media outlets that the remaining water is fit to drink but Mr Boyle would like to stress that this is definitely not the case.

“The water is PH neutral but it will make you sick,” he points out.

Once the bone fragments are processed, they are placed in a cardboard urn and given to a loved one’s family to memorialise or scatter, the same way as cremated remains.

The system has proven very popular, with local and international interest from businesses seeking safer, more sustainable end-of-life solutions.

Reducing our carbon footprint may be the last great thing we can do for the earth we leave behind for future generations.

About the author

Rebecca is a seasoned writer, experienced in creating informative and engaging content in a diverse range of fields for both traditional and digital platforms.  She has written extensively on global issues including alternative energy technologies and the environment. Her work has been widely p ... more