Burial Space Running Out: Could Promession be the Right Option?
I first wrote about biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak and her cryogenic technology with dead bodies in October of 2007. She was 8th and favorite on my list of eco-friendly burial options. Nearly 2 years later her freeze-dry technology is placed top of the list as a possible eco-burial option for East Lothian.
East Lothian is one of 32 unitary council areas in Scotland. It borders Midlothian, the City of Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders. East Lothian council and the council's principal amenities officer, Stuart Pryd are seriously considering this freeze dry technology, also known as promession, out of concern for the environment, and the lack of land for burial sites. Stuart Pyrde believes East Lothian will quickly run out of burial space in the near future. Obtaining new land for more burials is proving difficult and a new crematorium could mean more mercury released into the air. This freeze dry technology could be a solution to their problems.
What makes this option eco-friendly? The "corpse is transformed into an organic, odourless, hygienic powder." Within a few days after death the body is placed in a coffin. The body is then frozen to -18c with the help of liquid nitrogen and contaminants, such as mercury, are separated from the body. Once the body is frozen it becomes very brittle. The body is then slightly vibrated. This turns the body into a powder. A vacuum chamber is then used to evaporate away any water so that the powder is dry. The powder is then placed in a small corn or potato starch coffin and is buried in a shallow grave to decompose within a few months. This reduces the environmental impact on water, air and soil compared to a normal burial or cremation.
The idea of promession seems perfect for East Lothian's burial dilemma, but there is still more research for the East Lothian council to do before deciding for promession. After all, if it takes more energy to freeze-dry a body than cremate it is it really all that eco-friendly? The East Lothian council also has to consider the people of East Lothian. Some people may not be accepting of this option. Then again, what other option will they have when they run out of burial space and clean air to breathe? For more information on this innovative technology visit Organic Promise.