AUSTIN (KXAN) — Some people choose burial; others choose cremation by fire. Now, a proposed bill could open a new frontier for Texans: liquid cremation.

The scientific term is alkaline hydrolysis, also known as bio-cremation or water cremation. The body is placed in a chamber with a heated alkaline liquid. After a few hours, all that remains is liquid and bone fragments.

Alkaline hydrolysis has been allowed in a dozen states. House Bill 1155, filed Thursday by State Rep. Sarah Davis, R-West University Place, would legalize the practice in Texas.

“Alkaline Hydrolysis is an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional cremation methods. It completely eliminates mercury emissions and greatly reduces carbon dioxide emissions, all while utilizing 80 percent less energy,” said Eric Bearse, a spokesman for Davis, in an emailed statement. “Although it uses 120 gallons of water for the alkaline solution, the water gets recycled. Furthermore, the process returns 30 percent more powder remains ‘ash’ than traditional cremation methods.”

States that have allowed liquid cremation
  • Colorado
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Idaho
  • Illinois
  • Kansas
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Minnesota
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Wyoming
SOURCE: Office of Rep. Sarah Davis

As more people choose to be cremated each year, proponents of alkaline hydrolysis say it’s another option that allows for cremation in a dignified manner.

Some consider it more environmentally friendly than flame cremation, said Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America.

Cremation is a personal choice, Kemmis said. It’s possible a person would have an aversion to flames and fire, or the person would look at liquid cremation as beneficial for the environment, she said.

“Cremation is increasing in popularity, and consumers view this as a part of cremation,” said Kemmis, whose organization promotes best practices in the cremation industry and supports alkaline hydrolysis. “It is very different.”

Robert Falcon, owner of Affordable Burial and Cremation Service, says if it’s legalized in Texas he would consider offering it to customers.

“It’s giving consumer choice. It’s allowing consumers to decide what is best for their family. But in order for that choice, that one particular choice, it has to be accepted into law here in the state of Texas,” said Falcon.

Falcon says it would be a major investment for funeral homes, with the machinery costing double that of a regular cremation unit.

Davis’ office says traditional methods of cremation ranges from $1,500-$4,000 depending on the provider and funeral package. They say alkaline hydrolysis ranges from $800-$4,300.

Falcon charges $650 for cremation, and says he would likely have to charge more for alkaline hydrolysis.

Cremation rates are steadily rising in the U.S. The cremation rate exceeded the burial rate for the first time in 2015, and it is projected to continue growing, according to a June 2016 report released by the National Funeral Directors Association. By 2030, the NFDA projects the rate of cremations will exceed 71 percent.

But the practice of liquid cremation has received some pushback. New Hampshire approved the process in 2006 but reversed course and banned it again years later. One New Hampshire official considered the process undignified and was concerned liquid remains were being disposed into the wastewater system, according to news reports.

Bearse said the issue was brought to Davis “by a constituent that runs funeral homes, Joseph Earthman Generations.” Bearse said alkaline hydrolysis conforms with traditional religious methods of cremation, and consumers always have the choice of which method to use.