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2022/01/16-Green Life: Bio-cremation/Carbon reduction-Suitable for pets and human

Tips for Taking Care of Old or Senior Friends
February 27, 2021

[Ming Pao special news] Desmond Tutu, a former Archbishop of South Africa who is committed to promoting environmental protection, died last month. He asked to bury his body with "hydration", which is worthy of the name of "practice". The scientific name of this burial method is "alkaline hydrolysis", which was developed in the United States in the early 1990s and adopted in American funeral homes in 2011. The fehd replied that at present, 90% of human deaths in Hong Kong adopt Cremation Funeral mode, and the government has not launched relevant research on human hydration funeral. However, some companies in the market introduced this technology to deal with pet remains as early as 2017. Considering from the aspects of environment, Chinese funeral customs and feelings of relatives and friends, is hydration worth promoting to the green funeral option of mankind?

The principle of Bio-cremation: 3 elements

It is generally believed that hydration was invented by American professors Gordon Kaye and Peter Weber in 1992. It was initially used to treat experimental animals and cattle infected with mad cow disease, and later used in human remains. It is now legal in 21 states of the United States, some provinces of Canada and South Africa, but it has not been discussed in Asia. Wu Wenjie, the person in charge of pet to nature, explained that the three elements of hydration are water temperature, water flow and alkaline substances. Human remains are placed in a stainless steel sealing device. Alkaline substances are added according to body weight, gender and anti-corrosion status. After water injection and heating, bones will remain after decomposition, and the residual liquid will be diluted. Since Hongkong can not bury animal carcasses on its own, Wu Wenjie, a pet industry, began to promote hydration by burying pets. In recent 4 years, hamsters, fish and pet pigs have been treated besides cats and dogs. He explained that the process of dealing with humans and animals is the same, except that the hydration machine for dealing with the former is larger, and the above three elements have also been adjusted. Because human bones are hard, strong water flow and high water temperature can be used. According to the introduction of American human hydration company, human beings must use water containing 5% alkaline substances to decompose at 148 ℃ for 6 to 8 hours. Wu Wenjie said that the water given to pets will be mild and it will take about 24 hours to maintain below 100 ℃. He compared hydration to "accelerated burial", which shortened the decay process of corpses for 5 to 20 years, and changed the human body back to amino acids, sugar, salt, peptides and bones.

 
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有指寵物水化較顧及主人感受,緩減他們的哀傷。圖為說明水化過程 (受訪者提供)
 

Hydrated smokeless ashes retain more nutrients

Green funeral means a funeral method in line with environmental protection, energy conservation, simplicity and sustainable development. There is no specific practice. In general, hydration seems to be a feasible option. According to many American funeral homes, the carbon footprint of hydration is one tenth of that of cremation, and the energy consumption is only 10% of that of cremation. The hydration process will not release dense smoke, and the gases emitted by cremation include carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and dioxin. If the corpse has been treated with anti-corrosion treatment or amalgam filling teeth, it will produce other toxic gases and pollute the environment. During cremation, it is usually burned together with the coffin or funerary objects of the deceased, but these objects can not be placed in the hydration machine, so the decomposed bones are pure and do not mix with a variety of substances like cremation. These bones are usually air dried and then ground into ashes. Wu Wenjie said that many owners choose sea burial or garden burial for their pets. Due to the low hydration temperature, more nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus will be retained, making the role of bone ash like bone powder for planting or raising fish. Human remains hydrated in foreign countries do not need to remove pacemakers like cremation in advance. After hydration, metals such as surgical implants and hip substitutes are in good condition and can be sent to metal smelters for recycling.

As for the so-called "alkaline substances", Wu Wenjie said that sodium hydroxide and potassium hydroxide are usually used by people or animals. "They are ingredients for making soap or shampoo. Their families will feel mild. They don't do much harm to the environment.". The liquid discharged from the hydration is milky white. After being diluted and adjusted by the machine, Wu Wenjie will store the water in the water tank to irrigate the memorial garden. "Foreign studies have pointed out that these liquids are suitable for maintaining the lawn of the golf course.". However, he added that hydration always uses electricity "does not mean that it has no impact on the environment, but it is much lower than cremation". At present, he also has branches in Macao, the Philippines and Canada. His next stop will be Taiwan. Comparing the development of hydration in various places, he felt that the awareness of environmental protection in Asia was weak, and it was more difficult for Chinese to accept new methods of body treatment. For example, some people in Hong Kong would doubt whether it was equivalent to "slow cooking" or using boiled water. Of course, foreign countries do not support it on one side. Some people think of the classic "corpse melting" plot of the drama "deadly poison master". This time, the Archbishop plans to set an example, which I believe will dispel many doubts.

 
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人類遺體會放到圓筒形水化機中,可以148℃用6至8小時分解。(CBCNews影片截圖)
 

Traditional funeral vs. green funeral

"Hard to find" bow to reality

Does hydration run counter to the Chinese culture of settling in and pursuing the future carefully, and it is difficult for the elderly to accept it? Chen Liyun, Professor Emeritus of the Department of social work and social administration of the University of Hong Kong, has long been concerned about hospice education. She said that the concept of the elderly has changed. She used to hope that "someone will worship". In recent years, she understands that the size of the family has shrunk and that the number of relatives or descendants who worship is small. At the same time, we also know that "one is hard to find" in Hong Kong. Either the price is expensive or the lot is drawn. "The niches are made of 100000 units, and the private cemeteries may have millions of donations.". Even if they are lucky enough to be buried in public cemeteries, they will have to move or pick up bones after six years. Therefore, the elderly have begun to support green funeral. However, the old cremation equipment and long waiting time are another problem to be solved. In terms of religious belief, she said that most people in Hong Kong are "pragmatic worship of God" and may not have too many concerns, but Catholics and Christians believe that Christ will come again and people will come back to life after death. "(this idea) should bow to reality. No one can afford it. It's difficult to put fine ashes in cemeteries.". She and her mother are both practitioners of green funeral. She scattered her mother's ashes in the memorial garden of Pok Fu Lam Road cemetery in 2019

Chen Liyun said that traditional funeral customs are closely related to public health and infection control, such as wearing sacks and filial piety, holding fire pots, and not communicating three months after funeral. "Why are there so many taboos on death? There are so many regulations on funeral? Because in the past, many deaths were caused by infectious diseases. It is believed that the corpses and relatives carry germs. Using pomelo leaves and burning filial clothes and cloth is the disinfection procedure.". More than 150 people in Toronto were infected with the funeral of SARS. Now more than 5 million people have died of the new crown disease worldwide. A large number of corpses have to be disposed of in Spain, India and other places. She believes that chemical hydration may be a more suitable way to deal with corpses on a large scale than cremation. Because hydration does not emit gas and can sterilize, Wu Wenjie said, for example, there are institutions in Indonesia to carry out hydration burial for people who died in traffic accidents.

Hydration is not as rough as cremation?

The temperature of human cremation ranges from 870 ℃ to 980 ℃ and is completed within 1 to 3 hours. Philip R. Olson, an associate professor at Virginia Tech University, studies technology and ethics and hydration burial. He described: "it seems rude to cremate grandma. On the contrary, green cremation (referring to water burial) is to put grandma in a hot bath." This is the idea of many relatives or pet owners. Wu Wenjie explained that pets and humans are composed of 60% to 80% water. Compared with high-temperature cremation, owners will think that hydration respects pets more, is close to the essence of the body, and will walk more comfortably. The hydrated skeleton needs to be air dried before grinding. The quickest way is to put it in the oven, but it is generally difficult for the owner to accept: "they think hydration is a natural process. Why do they use fire to bake it in the last step?" Therefore, the current practice is to use a dehumidifier, which takes about 3 to 4 days. It has also been studied that natural air drying takes about two weeks.

The bone fragments left by cremation are equivalent to about 3.5% of the original body mass, while the hydrated bone fragments are equivalent to about 4.5%, and the bone structure is relatively complete. Therefore, some foreign people will keep the remains for funerals. No matter the metal or joint implants left by people or animals, their families or owners will keep them as souvenirs. The treatment of hydrated ashes is no different from that after cremation. Wu Wenjie said that more people would choose to plant potted plants. Because the older generation felt that storing the ashes cup at home or affecting their families, they usually rented niches or took the potted plants home for care, so as to turn the ashes into soil nutrients. Chen Liyun said that foreign countries are more creative, such as turning ashes into diamonds, setting off fireworks and making artificial coral reefs. Some people use them for tattoos and making vinyl discs, but Hong Kong laws are more restrictive.

Is hydration feasible in Hong Kong? License plate regulatory requirements

Wu Wenjie's equipment was purchased from the United States. Because the American company specializes in manufacturing hydration machines, it has provided detailed instructions and recommended hydration formulas. It is not difficult to get started. Now they can adjust the hydration ratio by themselves according to their experience. In terms of licences, hydration is also simpler than cremation. If you want to discharge the hydrated liquid, you must apply for a sewage licence. In addition, he has to apply for the relevant storage license for alkaline substances. He said that the environmental protection department had sent personnel to conduct an investigation and also pointed out that the harm to the environment was less than cremation.

Since there are so many benefits, why is hydration still not legal in many areas? Wu Wenjie believes that this is related to different local laws and regulations. He was approached by a human burial company in Singapore. He sent a number of water samples for testing, but still failed to meet the local requirements: "it has been tested that it is absolutely harmless to the environment, but the most important thing is that the oil content is too high to meet the local standards." However, in the Canadian branch, the government allows the sewage to be discharged into the sewer without even applying for a license. He said that the Philippine branch has been open for two years. Because the local people have more western thinking, the business volume has been several times that of Hong Kong. He also believes that Taiwanese people respect animal rights and can develop in Taiwan in the future. However, if we want to promote the hydration of human remains in Hong Kong, he thinks that it is difficult to comply with the laws and regulations, but he is not completely desperate. Cremation was established in 1962 and became the mainstream only in recent 20 years. He wanted to provide a way to deal with the remains in addition to burial and cremation: "I hope to do hydration when my feet are straight. I think it's a good choice." This newspaper has inquired with the environmental protection department whether hydration is a potential environmental protection funeral option, but the Department said that the main responsibility is the fehd and there is no supplement. Chen Liyun believes that death is the end of human life, involving civil affairs, family, health, health and other aspects. At present, the fehd is responsible for it, which lacks comprehensive consideration.

According to the 2017 "choice for old age" questionnaire survey of xiupu Geriatrics Research Center of the University of Hong Kong, 37.5% of respondents aged 56 or above have prepared things for themselves, such as funeral arrangements. Chen Liyun said that most of the elderly aged 60 to 70 are educated and have more Westernized ideas. If the advantages and disadvantages are laid out, such as comparing carbon emission data and attractive prices, she believes that the elderly will consider hydration burial because of their economic benefits and citizens' awareness of environmental protection. In fact, in addition to hydration, in recent years, Sweden has developed a "promession" using liquid nitrogen to reduce carbon emissions. The death of the 21st century is no longer a matter of one's own

Graphic source: https://news.mingpao.com/pns/%E5%89%AF%E5%88%8A/article/20220116/s00005/1642269637047/

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