Freeze Drying the Dead Could Save the Planet
Human beings use a surprising range of methods to dispose of dead corpses the world over. However, now with world populations burgeoning out of control and concern for its impact on the planet, the people at Promessa are looking for new, innovative ways to deal with the dead.
Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, a biologist and founder of Promessa, believes that her controversial burial process is the answer for the future. She further believes that freeze-drying the dead is a process which is going to revolutionise the cremation industry. They place the corpse into a vat of liquid nitrogen where it breaks down. Thus freeze-dried they bury the remains in a shallow grave.
Promessa – An Organic Way to ‘Return to the Earth’
This idea of Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak isn’t an overnight idea. She has been thinking about and researching this idea, regarding it as an ecological form of burial, for some 20 years. She formed the company Promessa Organic AB with the idea to assist dead people whose wish is to quickly return to the earth.
Wiigh-Mäsak reckons that her method is far more sustainable than embalming or cremation. She says that traditional burials with a coffin and body rot slowly and release methane. On the other hand, Promessa’s process is about powdery bodies buried shallowly and which break down far quicker.
Promessa – How does Freeze Drying Work?
For starters, this organic burial process does away with toxic embalming fluids. This is a huge step towards reducing the impact on the environment. The first part of the freeze drying process involves removing the water from the corpse. The corpse freezes to 0ºF then goes into the liquid nitrogen. The process requires that the corpse be freeze-dried in liquid nitrogen within a week and a half after death.
Sound waves then vibrate the corpse which has become brittle, transforming it into an organic white powder. The powder then goes through a vacuum chamber that evaporates the water, and this reduces the mass of the corpse. If the person had any metal medical parts in the body, a metal separator removes the parts from the powder. The organic powder is odourless and because it won’t decompose if kept dry, there is no rush for burial.
If the person prefers burial, the powder goes into a biodegradable carton and then into a shallow grave. A shrub or tree can be planted above the burial site. As apposed to a traditional burial where decomposition takes a long time, within the space of 6 – 12 months the entire coffin and powder become loam. Its high nutrient content nourishes the tree which stands as a symbol of the deceased person.
Promessa – Become Part of Nature
Wiigh-Mäsak owns a greenhouse and grows 15,000 organic plants. The tranquil hours spent in the greenhouse persuaded her that human beings can be part of the natural ecological cycle.
Green organisations have presented the company she started, Promessa, with awards. The company has also received recognition from UNESCO for the environmental benefits of the Promession process. Now the Swedish Church and Government are looking to make promession included in the Swedish burial law.
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