A story by Joel Julien in the Trinidad Guardian of April 27 reveals plans by young Belmont entrepreneur Cochese Tyler Dennie “to introduce eco-friendly funeral options in T&T”
According to scientists, the traditional practices used to dispose of dead bodies are bad for the environment.
A standard cremation is said to release around 800 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, thereby adding to global warming concerns.
And while a standard burial has less of a carbon footprint, it too can also be problematic as embalming fluids used to preserve bodies leak into groundwater.
As such, scientists and environmentalists around the world have been looking into more eco-friendly ways to dispose of the dead.
Dennie the 26-year old founder, owner and managing director of Dennie’s Funeral Home, has started the process of trying to import an “aquamation machine” into the country.
Aquamation is an alternative to the traditional cremation process and uses water instead of fire.
“It is using the process in chemistry known as alkaline hydrolysis to break down the components of the human body at a faster rate than with burial,” Dennie told the Business Guardian.
“It uses no flames. It is way cleaner than a flame-based cremation, it uses 90 percent less energy than the flame-based cremation and it is actually gentler on the human body,” he said.
“Watching things on the environmental aspect and the impact that funeral homes have on the environment I think that it should be something that the government of our country should be willing to implement that everyone should have an aquamation machine,” he said.
But what exactly is aquamation?
According to the Cremation Association of North America (CANA), “alkaline hydrolysis uses water, alkaline chemicals, heat, and sometimes pressure and agitation, to accelerate natural decomposition, leaving bone fragments and a neutral liquid called effluent.
“The decomposition that occurs in alkaline hydrolysis is the same as that which occurs during burial, just sped up dramatically by the chemicals. The effluent is sterile, and contains salts, sugars, amino acids and peptides. There is no tissue and no DNA left after the process completes. This effluent is discharged with all other wastewater, and is a welcome addition to the water systems,” CANA stated.
Once the bones are dried they can be pulverised. “The process results in approximately 32 per cent more cremated remains than flame-based cremation and may require a larger urn,” according to CANA.
But introducing this eco-friendly process to T&T is not just as simple as importing a machine.There are several steps that must be undertaken.
But Dennie said he is up to the challenge.
“I believe in saving the environment and I believe in thinking futuristic. So right now I am going through the (Environmental Management Authority) EMA and we have been in contact, emails back and forth,” Dennie said.
“Because it is something new we have to consult with the Water and Sewerage Authority because it involves water being let out into the sewers of the country,” he said,
According to CANA, the sterile liquid is released via a drain to the local wastewater treatment authority in accordance with the laws of the jurisdiction in question.
“The pH of the water is brought up to at least 11 before it is discharged. Because of the contents of the effluent, water treatment authorities generally like having the water come into the system because it helps clean the water as it flows back to the treatment plant. In some cases, the water is diverted and used for fertiliser because of the potassium and sodium content,” CANA stated.
Dennie said Town and Country approval also has to be sought to approve where the machine could be placed.
“With finances and everything being equal I am trying to get the project started by next December. I believe with us bringing it into the country it would be great to show that a small country like T&T being that innovative and that protective of the environment that we are working alongside environmentalists to make sure that we save our environment and then I think it would be a good initiative bringing it as it would highlight a lot of things in the Caribbean as well,” he said.
In January, anti-apartheid hero and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu’s body underwent aquamation.But this is not a new process.
Alkaline hydrolysis was developed and patented more than a century ago in 1888 by Amos Herbert Hanson, a farmer who was looking for a way to make fertilizer from animal carcasses.
In 1993, the first commercial system was installed at Albany Medical College to dispose of human cadavers.
“The process continued to be adopted by universities and hospitals with donated body programmes over the next ten years. The process was first used in the funeral industry in 2011 by two different funeral homes—one in Ohio and one in Florida,” CANA stated one.
Apart from the aquamation, there are also other eco-friendly alternatives to disposing of the dead body of a loved
“I also want to introduce green burials as well, using compost coffins which are biodegradable so it degrades at a very fast rate and that is what we are trying to implement so in that way we will see the cemeteries being cleared up because it would mean that these things will disintegrate at a much faster rate rather than waiting five to seven years for a grave site,” Dennie said.
But this fight for a more environmentally conscious way to dispose of bodies is one that Dennie said he has been fighting alone.
“I don’t get any support from anyone in the funeral industry, reason being that traditional funeral homes are always family oriented. I think it is a matter of people seeing young gentlemen just coming and doing these busier things and being so innovative,” he said.
“A lot of people watch it as more competition whereas I am all for uniting everyone and bringing everyone together because I always believe with unity you achieve more,” he said.
Dennie is not a stranger to doing things differently.
In 2020, Dennie’s Funeral Home first came into the national spotlight when murder victim Che Lewis was embalmed in a seated position on a chair and carried around in the tray of an open-top hearse and driven through his community while loud music played before being placed seated at his own funeral.
Dennie’s has also had a corpse standing at a funeral.
The logo for Dennie’s Funeral Home Ltd is a horse and carriage.
And that is a funeral style that Dennie also hopes to introduce.
“I actually have plans to implement that horse and carriage style funeral. I look forward to implementing this. The advantage is that if you have a funeral around the area we are actually saving the environment as well because with the horse and carriage you are not burning any fossil fuels for a vehicle to move, this is natural energy,” Dennie said.
“It may not be much but the little bit that we are doing will have a great impact on saving our environment as well with also a luxurious look,” he said.
He has already used his horse to escort funerals.
The tag line for Dennie’s is “Every life is unique therefore every funeral should be unique.”
He said this is a mantra he lives by.