A Swedish company thinks it’s found a way to reduce the environmental impact of a funeral. Burials and cremation both have their share of problems, ranging from the toxins released when a (chemically preserved) body decomposes anaerobically to the fossil fuels used to cremate a corpse. Instead, Promessa Organic AB plans to use a freeze-drying and acoustically-vibrating method to reduce your last remains to compostable powder:
The first part of the ecological burial method involves removing the water that makes up 70% of the human body. To do this, the company freeze-dries the corpse in liquid nitrogen within a week and a half after death. The corpse is first frozen to -18°C (0°F) and then submerged in liquid nitrogen. Next, sound waves at a specific amplitude vibrate the brittle corpse, transforming it into an organic white powder. The powder is sent through a vacuum chamber that evaporates the water, greatly decreasing the corpse’s mass. If the person had metal surgical implants, a metal separator can remove these parts from the dry powder. If required, the powder can also be disinfected.
At this point, the organic powder is hygienic and odorless, and the remains can either be cremated or buried. Since the powder will not decompose if kept dry, there is no hurry for a burial. At the time of burial, the remains are laid in a coffin made of a biodegradable material such as corn starch and placed in a shallow grave. Depending on the wishes of the next of kin, a bush or tree can be planted above the coffin. Within 6-12 months, both the coffin and its contents will become loam, a high-nutrient soil that nourishes the plant growing above. As Promessa’s website notes, this process “can instill greater insight in and respect for the ecological cycle, of which every living thing is a part. The plant stands as a symbol of the person, and we understand where the body went.”