Eco-Friendly Burials


Amid the potato starch coffins and bio-degradable urns at a recent Asian funeral expo, a freeze dry burial technique similar to cremation, but without the pyres, stood out as the ultimate green alternative.

The brainchild of a Swedish biologist, the ‘Promession’ technique, due to launch in Sweden and South Korea next year, takes some getting used to: liquid nitrogen is used to super-freeze a corpse, which is then shaken until it disintegrates into a pile of dust.

“The body really falls apart when it’s really cold and that was something that I felt was appealing and clean,” said Susanne Wiigh-Masak, who pioneered the sci-fiesque cryogenic method.

The crystallised body particles are then filtered of heavy metals like mercury and buried in a bio-degradable container to nourish the growth of a plant or tree in a memorial park.

Whereas buried bodies can take many decades to decompose fully, the atomised particles from Promession break down after 6-18 months, shrinking and completing a certain cycle of life.

After nearly a decade of trials and development and having to overcome major ethical and legal challenges to her controversial method, Wiigh-Masak said the first “promatorium” will finally open in Sweden next April, and process up to 1,500 bodies a year.

This will be closely followed by South Korea, which is building at least thirteen sprawling memorial parks across the country to accommodate freeze-dry burials on a far larger scale.

“This is going to be the future solution for Korea,” said Wiigh-Masak who said her technique had the tacit support of the Korean government and at least 18 million members of the Korean Christian Church who say they’re willing to be frozen at death.

“Traditional burials as they are today (in Korea) may not be allowed in future,” she added, saying most graveyards in the country were now running out of space.

With a growing awareness of climate change and sustainable development fuelling development of cleaner, greener technologies, other techniques have also been invented.

A “Resomator”, for instance, uses alkaline hydrolysis to reduce a corpse into a white powder and murky liquid intended to be flushed down the drain without polluting the environment.

With the world’s population booming towards seven billion, such alternatives could prove to be a viable green, and space saving, solution to dealing with the 60 million or so people who die each year across the globe.

“It’s really a good chance for the planet I think,” said Wiigh-Masak.

While only a handful of other places are on the verge of passing legislation to allow promession such as Scotland, Wiigh-Masak said 60 countries had expressed an interest so far, including Hong Kong, China and Taiwan given their dense urban centres and shrinking space for accommodating the dead.

This may be food for thought for Parsis looking for an alternate method for the disposal of the mortal remains of their near and dear ones. From a doctrinal point of view ‘Promession’ does not pollute any of the four key elements of Nature – Fire, Earth, Air & Water.

Noshir H. Dadrawala

One comment

  • Cyrus S. Saiwalla

    As our Lord Zarathustra said in Gathas that ‘Chate aankhe andhala ane chate kane behra thaiche mari shekhamanpar’, meaning, ‘inspite of telling you the truth on the subject of my religion, which, I have brought from Dadare Gyan, the people deliberately shut their eyes and close their ears by not listening to me’.
    So, my dear brethren Dokmenashini is the only effective and relevant method for the disposal of deads, which was prescirbed in Vadidad by Dadar-Ahuramazda through our Lord Zarathustra.
    I sincerely appeal to my brethren to vist my blog- cyrus’ and read my article on the subject of Dokhmenashini – The Talismanic Gift Given to the Soul by Lord Zarathustra with the description of Dokhma.
    Dokhma is one of the ‘Alats’ in our Zoroastrinism. With the help of Dokhma, we reach to Dadare Gyan Din on the day of ‘Charum’ for our final judgement. And those who do not take the help of Dokhma, they do not reach to Dadare- Gyan Din, but, their souls will go no where and always feel distress and be always in a state of repentance for their misdeeds.

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