May 27, 2020 1:39 pm

This New Clean Alternative To Cremation Involves Freeze-Drying And Then Shattering Your Corpse

Look, we’re all going to perish. At least, when it happens, you (or your family) get to decide what happens to your body. Traditionally, people opt to be buried or cremated. There are several different types of body preparation, one of which, called promession, could theoretically be environmentally friendly, produce a tree, and cut down on the overcrowding of cemeteries. The only issue is that it isn’t legal… yet

Promession, developed by Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsa, is a theoretical process in which you are electing to freeze your body after you pass. In a nutshell, promession freeze-dries a corpse and prepares it for natural decomposition in the earth. The process may sound a little out there to some, but there are benefits of promession. However, postmortem industries which have existed for hundreds of years are not in support of this unprecedented process.

The Process Freezes The Body, Removes Metals, And Then Shatters It

The process of promession may sound like a complicated and delicate procedure, but it’s actually relatively simple. Instead of dressing the body for post-life services, the casket is tossed into a big bucket of liquid nitrogen with a temperature of -196 degrees Celsius.

The casket is removed from the liquid nitrogen. It is so brittle that a minor vibration quickly shatters it. The remaining water is evaporated out of the powdery remains, and magnets are used to remove any metals (like teeth fillings).

The freeze-dried remains are placed in a biodegradable container and buried in the ground, just about a foot down.

It Is An Environmentally Friendly Alternative To Cremation

Many people like the tradition of scattering ashes and do not like the idea promession would eliminate this practice. However, if fans of cremation knew what really goes down in the crematorium, they might feel okay opting out.

Cremation is by far the most popular method of burial in the United States and its at an “all-time high,” according to Smithsonian Magazine. Cremation is, however, not great for the environment. Burning a body takes about two and a half hours. That’s 150 minutes of corpse smoke being pumped into the air for each person who gets cremated on a given day around the world. The mercury in items like teeth fillings and artificial metal limbs – along with the body’s natural sodium chloride – release toxins, which isn’t so great for crematorium staff members.

Moreover, what is not well-known is this initial fire does not burn the corpse’s bones and metal additions. These items need to be separately crushed in a machine called a cremulator. These are the ashes that are given to the grieving family – crushed up bones and teeth fillings.

Your Remains Are Placed In A Biodegradable Coffin

The current method of coffin burial is reportedly bad for the soil because the coffin adds no nutrients to the earth, and the finish on the wood is toxic. While the thought of just laying our deceased out to rot is alarming, there is a better way to let humans return to the earth in an eco-friendly way, according to scientists: turn them to compost.

The remains of the deceased after the promession process are put into small biodegradable coffins that can be buried at a grave site. In a matter of months, the materials break down and become a nutritious fertilizer.

You Can Choose To Have A Tree Grow Out Of Your Composted Remains
If one chooses to do a traditional gravesite with their promessed remains, they can also choose to have a tree or flowers planted on their grave. Because of the biodegradable coffin, the soil at the gravesite is rich with nutrients and ripe for the circle of life to continue. The plant that grows from the gravesite will be grown with the organic materials of the deceased.

It may sound offputting to eat fruit from a tree grown out of the deceased, but the truth is, we’ve been doing it for centuries and been okay.

Despite The Obvious Benefits, Promession Is Still Unauthorized
Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak is a Swedish biologist who saw the environmental damage cremation and traditional burials cause and wanted to come up with a better solution. She sees promession as a way to deal with the air quality, overcrowding, and soil issues of traditional postmortem practices.

Wiigh-Mäsak began experimenting with “ecological burial” in 1997, but she has still not received approval to make this a legal choice for post-life processes. She has gained plenty of investors and supportors who are all waiting for the funerary bureaucracy to come around.

Promession Could Help With Massive Cemetery Overcrowding
This might comes as a shock, but there isn’t enough room for everyone to be buried in a coffin. Cemetery overcrowding – along with the exorbitant cost for burial – is one of the biggest reasons for the shift towards cremation as the world’s main post-life ritual.

Traditional burial is also really bad for the environment. The coffins serve as a hindrance to the natural decomposition of the body, and they are also made with toxic finishes which poison the soil. The body becomes waste instead of enriching the soil in the way organic matter should.

The Process Has Been Successfully Tested On Deceased Pigs
Since it is still not legal for the remains of humans to undergo promession as their chosen postmortem practice, it is certainly forbidden to test the process on humans. This is why Wiigh-Mäsak and her staff have become quite accustomed to having a regular delivery of deceased pigs.

Pig flesh is close to human flesh in texture, making them good substitutes when it comes to experimentation. Luckily, no animal cruelty is involved in these experiments because the pigs are already not alive. The experiments with pigs have afforded “excellent results,” and Wiigh-Mäsak hopes the process can be tested on humans in the near future.

There Are Frozen Corpses Waiting In Storage For Promession To Be Legalized

One haunting aspect of the promession industry is the fact there are a good number of people who wish to undergo the process who are already deceased. Since Wiigh-Mäsak’s promession began, she gained many fans and advocates, some who have passed before the process has been legalized.

However, the idea of “people in freezers” is a concept the opposition to promession often mentions.

The Federation Of Cemeteries And Crematoria Refuse To Acknowledge The Possible Benefits Of Promession
In Sweden – home of the promession revolution – the crematory industrial complex is not going quietly. A turf war has erupted for reign over the postmortem industry, and Wiigh-Mäsak claims the Swedish Federation of Cemeteries and Crematoria (SKKF) are out to discredit her.

It’s impossible to know the exact truth until promession can be tested on humans. When the Federation of Crematoria was asked about Wiigh-Mäsak’s technology, they said it does not work and continue to slander the technology as part of the official policy of the postmortem industry. The Federation has even refused to answer any questions regarding the practice.

For Its Creator, Promession Is A Shift In Attitude About Death

One argument Wiigh-Mäsak makes for her promession technology is it may help remove some of the repression and taboos surrounding our mortal end. The topic is very difficult to talk about in most cultures, but our discomfort in expressing and talking about our grief may hurt us more in the long run.

Wiigh-Mäsak believes the crematory industry is taking advantage of this. She told Wired: “I think it’s very convenient for the cremation industry to sustain the taboo because then they can work on their own without any questions.” She believes there is certain sterility that accompanies the environmentally damaging ways of the traditional postmortem industry, and it’s time for a change in the practice of death and the attitude about it.

She believes it will be comforting to loved ones of the deceased knowing the circle of life is continuing as their loved one is composted into the soil.

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This post was written by Nadia Vella