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Non-polluting toilets, alternative cremations - green methods for 2011

Wednesday December 29, 2010 03:13:06 PM, K.S. Jayaraman, IANS

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Bangalore: An eco-friendly technology to dispose of dead bodies as an alternative to cremation and burial is making a debut in Europe. The unusual "corpse compost method" turns bodies into soil. And people who care about improving the environment can also turn to using No-Mix toilets that collect urine and faeces separately.

These toilets have gained wide support by consumers in Europe as a way to reduce pollution and conserve water, says Washington-based American Chemical Society (ACS), the world's largest scientific body.

Non-polluting toilet and alternative to cremation are among a half dozen ways "to go 'green' in 2011 and beyond," the ACS has said in a New Year message. The ACS hand-picked these novel ideas from almost 38,000 scientific reports and articles it published in 2010 in its 38 peer-reviewed scientific journals.

In an appeal to the public, the ACS has asked people to consider adding green alternatives to their New Year resolutions for 2011, being celebrated as the International Year of Chemistry. One of its suggestions is that people should take public transportation rather than drive since passenger trains and buses cause four to five times less impact on the environment than automobile travel for every mile travelled.

The ACS, with more than 161,000 members, has also advised people in the United States to stop wasting food. A study reported in one of its journals found that it takes the equivalent of about 1.4 billion barrels of oil to produce, package, prepare, preserve and distribute a year's worth of food in the US. Reducing the waste of food in the US "could save the energy equivalent of 350 million barrels of oil a year", the ACS said.

The ACS, which inspired entrepreneurs to develop green alternatives to standard Western practices, says two such alternative technologies will soon launch in either North American or European markets.

One of these - the 'No Mix' toilet - developed by a Swiss group "is a promising innovation aiming at a resource-oriented, decentralized approach in urban water management," the ACS said.

It said that people in European countries have positive attitudes toward the "No Mix" toilet that could substantially reduce pollution problems and conserve water and nutrients.

The ACS has also called upon people to consider a low-heat cremation and 'Resomation' method developed by entrepreneurs in Europe that turns bodies into soil as alternatives to burial and cremation.

In case of burial, formaldehyde and other chemicals that undertakers use to prepare bodies may leach into the water table. When it comes to cremation, one body on average consumes so much fuel that 250 kg of carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Besides, crematorium smokestacks release toxic mercury found in dental amalgam fillings into the air.

The 'Resomation' process breaks down a corpse using alkaline hydrolysis instead of extremely high heat, says the ACS.

The alkaline hydrolysis method "has a much lower carbon footprint than cremation" because the tissue is not burned and the process also uses an eighth of the energy required for cremation. Any dental amalgam that remains is easily separated from the bone ash and sent for recycling.

According to the ACS, Sweden and Germany will soon begin clinical tests of the Resomation process with humans who have volunteered for the procedure. Other tests will begin later this year in South Korea.

(K.S. Jayaraman can be contacted at



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