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Eco-Burial Turns Corpse to Compost

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Headline over Jurgen Hecker’s fascinating story in Monday’s Washington Times about a new approach to remembering the dead.

With eco-burial, your salad will have molecular memories of your loved ones, and they will truly live again – inside your gut, not just your memories.

Read the article:-

An environmentally friendly method of burying the dead is offering tough competition to traditional funerals – transforming corpses into organic compost and giving people the chance to come back as flowers.

Traditional burials and cremations hurt the environment by polluting air and water and upsetting the ecology of the sea.

This led Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh to come up with an alternative.

“Nature’s original plan was for dead bodies to fall on the earth, be torn apart by animals and become soil,” Mrs. Wiigh said in Lyr, a small, romantic island off Sweden’s southwestern coast, where she lives with her family and runs her company, Promessa AB.

Mrs. Wiigh, who also manages the island’s only shop, well-stocked with organic food next to an impressive greenhouse, concedes that “we clearly can’t go back to that,” but said her method is as close to nature as modern ethics allow.

The method consists of taking the corpse’s temperature to minus 321 Fahrenheit in a liquid-nitrogen bath and breaking the brittle body down into a rough powder through mechanical vibration.

The remains are then dehydrated and cleared of any metal, reducing a body weighing 165 pounds in life to 55 pounds of pink-beige powder, plus the remains of the coffin.

The whole process occurs in a facility resembling a crematorium and takes about two hours. A corpse buried in a coffin takes several years to decompose completely.

Mrs. Wiigh says compost always has been her passion.

“For me, it’s really romantic. It smells good. It feels like gold,” she said.

And like all compost, human remains should be used to feed plants and shrubs, planted by a dead person’s family. She thinks the powder would be incorporated completely into the plant within a few years.

“The plant becomes the perfect way to remember the person. When a father dies, we can say, ‘The same molecules that made up Daddy also built this plant,’ ” said Mrs. Wiigh, whose late cat Tussan currently nourishes a rhododendron bush in her front garden.

Mrs. Wiigh, a soft-spoken woman with an easy smile who dedicates 60 hours a week to Promessa, also would like to turn into a rhododendron – of the white variety.

What might look like no more than an ecologist’s dream vision might have serious business potential, breathing new life into an innovation-shy industry.

Industrial-gas company AGA Gas, part of Germany’s Linde group, has invested in the idea, taking a controlling stake of 53 percent in Promessa, alongside Mrs. Wiigh’s 42 percent and 5 percent held by the Church of Sweden.

“The commercial potential could be quite large,” said AGA spokesman Olof Kaellgren, whose company contributes expertise of the nitrogen-cooling process.

But he stressed that AGA considers the new method to be “a complement to already existing methods and, therefore, giving a new opportunity to make a choice that many people may feel is better than today’s alternative.”

The city of Joenkoeping, in southwestern Sweden, already has decided it will not replace its outdated crematorium and will become the first customer of Promessa. The freeze-drying installation, which will be cheaper than the 2 million Euro price of a new crematorium, will be ready next year.

Promessa has applied for patents in 35 countries. Its immediate foreign markets are in ecology-conscious Northern Europe and include Scandinavia, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, where the next installation is likely to be built.

But queries have come from as far away as South Africa, where the soil often lacks the depth needed for ordinary burials. There also might be sales potential in countries where religion makes cremation difficult or impossible, such as Muslim countries.

Swedish designers have been stirred into action by the new method, focusing their attention on making containers that are smaller than traditional coffins and biodegradable.

Stockholm design graduate Linda Jaerned has made two prototypes, for those who would like their freeze-dried remains to be buried in a container, rather than just mixed with soil.

One is a soft tube made of felt, resembling a paper dragon in a Chinese New Year parade, and the other is a more traditional-looking box made of plywood and linen.

“The first one will disintegrate completely in about a year, and the second one will last longer, maybe up to five years,” she said at the Stockholm design school.
    
“I think this is the future. We don’t have so much space for the dead. The living will take more and more space,” Miss Jaerned said.

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  • http://murasaki.city-blog.com Purple Tigress

    I guess they’ll have to change those vows about “til death do we part” and such a process gives new meaning to “ashes to ashes and dust to dust.”

    I do foresee a slight problem. Silicone implants don’t burn up into ashes. I guess in the end, people will know the truth, but lumps of silicone may be more a problem in Hollywood than in Sweden (or so they would have us think).

  • http://www.forestofmemories.org Mike Salisbury

    I am involved in the natural burial movement in North America so it was with great interest and expectation that I began to seriously research the Promessa composting process.

    I was originally attracted to the environmental benefits promoted by the company, there are no fossil fuels used as are with cremation and no wasted land. It all seemed quite promising until I began to research liquid nitrogen, the primary material used in the process. As it turns out, if you include the energy used in the production, transportation and storage of liquid nitrogen the argument that Promessa composting is environmentally friendly becomes questionable. The environmental footprint becomes downright oversized!

    Natural burial provides an environmentally sustainable burial option and provides a wide range of benefits to society by helping to restore the ecosystem and safeguard valuable green space from future development. The website provides information and resources to support natural burial in North America.

    One of the comments I received regarding Promessa on the Forest of Memories website sums it all up:

    “It just seems strange to me that we would complicate such a natural process as death and burial to this level. I read somewhere once that cremation was originally promoted as “the same process as decomposition, only faster”. So what is, freeze drying our loved ones, “just like regular burial, only more like Tasters Choice?”

  • lvandame

    Why be freeze dried? How about being composted just like any other biotics? Farmers do it with farm animals so it can be done with people. You end up a small quantity of soil great for the garden. I wanna’ be a tree!! If anyone else is interested in this say so on this blog.

  • Marcel Larouche

    Even though The dead are taking over the world through cemetaries real estate expantions and the funeral industry is the most financially rewarding industry through good and bad times. Selling silk and high end lumber protected within a vault for the comfort of deceased loved ones is nuts. Incineration; Setting our loved ones remains on fire is no way to be environmentaly consious either and that leave the cheapest way of all to dispose of loved ones while providing a mean to eternal life is composting of the human body. We take trough our lives from this land why not give back to the land that sustained us so well all these years. Unfortunatly unless you do something about it composting of human remains is illegal as the billion dollar industry is protected by governments . http://www.backtonaturefuneralservices.ca