The body of late Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu returned to dust via “aquamation”, an environmentally-friendly process using water instead of fire only to cremate the body, APA learnt on Sunday.
Tutu, who died a week ago at the age of 90, was cremated at Avbob Crematorium in Cape Town, the only facility in the country offering the water-based cremation service.
Avbob corporate affairs and marketing general manager Adriaan Bester said the aquamation was an environmentally friendly process using water only instead of fire.
“Aquamation, or alkaline hydrolysis, consists of cremation by water rather than fire. It uses a combination of water flow, temperature and alkalinity,” Bester said.
He added: “The body of the deceased is immersed for about three to four hours in a mixture of water and a strong alkali-like potassium hydroxide in a pressurised metal cylinder and heated to around 150° Celcius.”
The remains were then processed to ashes in a cremulator, Bester said, adding that aquamation was conducted in accordance with stringent waste water and environmental regulations.
“It is a saving of over 90% energy compared to using the traditional method. It reduces the carbon footprint and there is no emission of harmful greenhouse gases. Given the country and the world’s shortage of burial space, aquamation is the future of cremations,” Bester said.
He said the entire process usually takes about five hours – depending on the body weight – and uses between 800 to 1,200 litres of water.
Avbob started offering the service as a sustainable alternative to flame cremation in November 2020, the official said.
“We started in Cape Town because we believe the population here is more eco-aware and willing to engage in alternative methods. The council was also very supportive of this project,” he said.
Bester said “a second facility was currently being developed in Pretoria with a plan to roll out 10 other facilities nationally in the next two years.”