Eternally green: New eco-friendly cremations and burials

Jun 30, 2010

People who care about improving the environment in life may soon be able to do so after death. Entrepreneurs in Europe have developed two new and unusual methods of body disposal — including a low-heat cremation method and a corpse compost method that turns bodies into soil — that could provide environmentally friendly alternatives to those now in use. That's the topic of an article in the current issue of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), ACS' weekly newsmagazine.

C&EN Associate Editor Sarah Everts notes that environmentally minded individuals have several concerns about cremation and burial practices. The high temperature of cremation burns up lots of fuel and releases carbon dioxide, the major greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere. Cremation also releases mercury from dental fillings into the air. Some worry that formaldehyde and other toxic substances that undertakers use to prepare bodies for burial can leach into the environment.

Entrepreneurs have developed two green alternatives that are soon launching in North America or Europe. They include a new cremation method that breaks down a corpse using a highly corrosive alkaline substance rather than extremely high heat. Because the temperatures used in the new process is also 80 percent cooler than standard cremation temperatures, the process uses less energy and produces lower carbon dioxide emissions.

A newly developed burial method allows corpses to be composted (decomposed) into instead of transforming to dust in a sealed casket. The unusual process involves freezing the body in liquid nitrogen, breaking it into smaller pieces, and freeze-drying the parts, which are then placed in a biodegradable coffin for burial. Over time, the body turns into soil instead of undergoing the standard decaying process. "No matter how you look at it, there's just no pretty way to go," said one of the entrepreneurs.

Explore further: Spain defends Canaries oil drilling plan

More information: This story is available at pubs.acs.org/cen/science/88/8826sci2.html

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Soil contributes to climate warming more than expected

Feb 09, 2010

The climatic warming will increase the carbon dioxide emissions from soil more than previously estimated. This is a mechanism that will significantly accelerate the climate change. Already now the carbon dioxide emissions ...

Storage of carbon dioxide a vexed question

Sep 15, 2009

In Sweden alone, 52 million tons of carbon dioxide is emitted every year. To mitigate the negative impacts of greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide sequestration has come to the fore as a hot new method. However, the process is ...

Recommended for you

Study shows no lead pollution in oilsands region

15 hours ago

New research from a world-renowned soil and water expert at the University of Alberta reveals that there's no atmospheric lead pollution in Alberta's oilsands region—a finding that contradicts current scientific ...

User comments : 0