Apr 122011

CycledLife focuses on alkaline hydrolysis for body disposition

Dying is a dirty business. One Lafayette entrepreneur is looking to clean it up.

Ed Gazvoda wants to use a process called alkaline hydrolysis to reduce a corpse to a bag of bone powder and a barrel of gray water.

The 51-year-old “serial entrepreneur” started a company called CycledLife out of the basement of his Waneka Lake home a couple of years ago in order to develop a way of making the disposition of human remains environmentally friendly.

His invention, dubbed the Coffin Spa, is being designed by Lafayette’s API Engineering LLC. It is slated to hit the market sometime this summer.

Gazvoda argues that alkaline hydrolysis mimics natural decomposition — albeit compressed into hours rather than weeks or months. It works by breaking down proteins and destroying DNA and leaving behind nothing but harmless pathogen-free byproducts clean enough to fertilize pasture land or a farmer’s field.

The process has been around for nearly two decades, but has mostly been used to decompose animal carcasses and donated human cadavers. CycledLife for the first time brings the procedure to the nation’s funeral homes.

In the Coffin Spa, a body is submerged in an alkaline/water mixture that is pumped through the “coffin” and heated to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. After six to eight hours, the corpse is reduced to a brown liquid and a small pile of bone residue.

The advantages of liquefaction over cremation or burial, Gazvoda claims, are numerous.

“With cremation, you get back about 5 percent of the body,” he said, pulling up a YouTube video of a crematory on his laptop. “Where did the rest of it go? It got spewed out of a smokestack.”

That means the release of nitrogen oxide, hydrogen chloride, sulphur dioxide, and dioxins. Worse, Gazvoda said, mercury from dental fillings vaporizes and goes into the atmosphere. And crematories aren’t typically equipped with pollutants scrubbers.

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