As described in one of my previous posts, environmentally-friendly funerals are increasingly gaining popularity. Interestingly, not all modern funerals in the western world involve disposing of the body by conventional means, such as cremation or full body burial. A method which has recently gained increased public awareness is promession, i.e. freeze-drying the human remains prior to disposal. The method allows the body to become a nutrient-rich fertiliser, allowing the life cycle to progress naturally.
The process essentially involves freezing the dead body, before shaking it to make it fall apart

The method is relatively straight-forward, involving 5 key stages: (a video demonstrating the process can be watched here:
1. Coffin separation: the body is removed from the coffin and placed in a chamber of the Promator machine.
2. Cryogenic freezing: liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees Celsius is used to freeze the body, in effect turning it into a human crystal.
3. Vibration: the body gets disintegrated into fine particles by means of shaking it in the chamber. This only lasts a few minutes.
4. Freeze-drying: the particles are freeze-dried in a vacuum chamber to remove excess fluid. Water evaporates from the body and leaves into the atmosphere as steam. Only approximately 1/3 of the original body mass remains as a result.
5. Metal separation: any remaining metals are removed either by sieving or by magnets.
The dry powder is then placed in a bio-degradable casket, ready to be buried in soil, where bacteria will decompose the remains within 6-12 months.

Once the organic powder is ready, in fact, there is no need to hurry with the burial as the dried remains are odourless, hygienic and do not decompose easily. However, once buried, a good idea would be to plant a tree or a bush directly above the remains as the compost would be directly taken up by the plant. The funeral services would have the same format as cremations. However, the dried organic powder could not be scattered in the same way as ashes afterwards as it could potentially disturb eco-systems. For example, if thrown into the ocean, many individuals would stop eating fish, as in effect they would indirectly be consuming human remains.

While the idea seems very appealing, the process has not yet been used on human cadavers, even though successful tests on pigs had been performed. However, more than 60 countries expressed interest in using the technology in the future.


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