Exemplary post-purchase support

Climate conscious 87

Jul 17, 2023

Climate conscious pensioner Bill Holvey said he would try and stick around for a bit longer on planet Earth – at least until greener ways to be cremated are legalised in New Zealand.

The 87-year-old said he had decided to go back on his decision to donate his body to medicine following his death after learning his remains would be cremated in a fossil fuel guzzling crematorium afterwards.

“I’m getting a bit long in the tooth now, so I made a pledge to donate my body to the Otago Medical School for medical research,” he said.

“But I've written to them and said I’m no longer happy with the idea of having my essential being being converted into CO2 because we’ve already got too much bloody CO2 in the atmosphere anyway.

“Cremations concern me because you’re putting CO2 into the air, and you’re burning fossil fuels.”

Holvey said he had read of a new cremation technique involving water – alkaline hydrolysis aka aquamation – that was being used in the United States, Canada, and the UK, but the process was not currently legal in New Zealand.

Aquamation involves placing the body in an alkaline solution, heated and then treated so that it dissolves leaving only the skeletal remains and waste water behind.

The process released significantly fewer emissions into the atmosphere than a crematorium furnace and, therefore, caused less harm to the environment, Holvey said.

The method made global headlines last year when the Archbishop Desmond Tutu was aquamated following his death in December 2021.

If Holvey was to be processed post-mortem, that’s the way he would like to go, he said.

“The water cremation seems a real sensible alternative, because once you’re reduced down to a slurry and dried into powder, then it can be scattered on the earth and taken up by trees and whatever,” he said.

It is estimated that cremating one corpse required two to three hours at up to 1300C – enough energy to release around 260kg of carbon dioxide (Co2) into the atmosphere.

Around 70 per cent of the more than 30,000 people who die in New Zealand each year are cremated.

Yet the number of cremations across the country were expected to continue to rise as the prices for burials continues to increase.

And with several crematoriums around the country being blamed for excessive smoke and air pollution by local residents, Holvey said new laws legalising water cremations should come in sooner rather than later.

“Surely it can’t take that much to get it into law, but everything happens so slowly going through the legislative process, apart from pay rises for politicians,” he said.

“For a country that is supposedly trying to reduce its greenhouse gases, it really should be looking at it hard and quickly, and not in five years' time.

“In the meantime I’m sort of in limbo, so I’ve got to stay alive until we sort this out.”

Meanwhile, Ethan Williams, funeral director and embalmer at Geoffrey T Sowman Funeral Directors, said he held a personal interest in water cremations and would be keeping a close eye on any developments to legalise the practice here in New Zealand.

“I have done quite a bit of research into alkaline hydrolysis because I’m a big fan of new technology and seeing how we can use it to benefit those that we care for and give people more options,” he said.

“We’d consider anything that's moving in the way that people would like, and obviously alkaline hydrolysis is one of those things that people have started to consider more.

“It will be interesting when we start to get some movement (on law changes). I know there has been talks around the change to allow water cremations, so it would be nice to see some change there and those options open up for people.”

Send Message

If you have any enquiry about quotation or cooperation, please feel free to email us at E-mail or use the following enquiry form. Our sales representative will contact you within 24 hours. Thank you for your interest in our products.