What exactly is death tech?
Good question. What we’re calling death tech is any new technology that is used to dispose of a dead body. Older forms of death technology might be burial or cremation. Death technology of the future includes methods like aquamation and recomposition.
Many of the leading voices and designers in the reform of death disposal are Founding Order members. Here is a New York Times article that introduces you to some of these voices– Mushroom Suits, Biodegradable Urns and Death’s Green Frontier. I also talk about some of them in our Eco Death Takeover video.
This technology can also include new green products such as the Mushroom Burial Suit, caskets, and shrouds. Here is a list of green burial products, including caskets, urns and shrouds constructed from plant-derived, recycled plant-derived, natural, animal, or unfired earthen materials, including shell, liner, and adornments.
Alkaline Hydrolysis aka Water Cremation or Aquamation
Like Cremation, Alkaline Hydrolysis – also known as Green Cremation –
is a method of preparing a dead human body for its final disposition. And like cremation, it’s a process that reduces human remains to bone fragments. But instead of flame, Alkaline Hydrolysis uses water and an alkali solution of potassium hydroxide (KOH) commonly found in household products, which when heated, dissolves the body, leaving behind bone fragments and a sterile liquid. Alkaline hydrolysis is the natural process a body undergoes after burial, which can take up to 25 years. Green Cremation essentially accelerates this natural process to 2-3 hours in a very quiet, controlled environment. via Funeral Consumer Alliance
I explained the process in an early version of Ask a Mortician – Liquefying Bodies,and more recently in this video, where I visit an aquamation facility for pets and discuss the process in more detail.
Founding Order member Jeff Jorgenson explains how it is already being used all over with pets in Alkaline Hydrolysis – Seattle Style.
Learn why it may well be the future of death care in Why Alkaline Hydrolysis is a Green Alternative.
Recomposition, created by Founding Order member Katrina Spade, transforms bodies into soil so our bodies can grow new life after we die.
We are laying the groundwork so that someday, people will be able to choose recomposition instead of cremation or burial. Eventually, we hope there will be places in our cities where we can return our loved ones to the earth naturally. Via Recompose.
But is composting the dead safe? Absolutely, we’ve been doing it with livestock for years.
Recomposition is based on the principles of livestock mortality composting, a process which creates heat which in turn kills common viruses and bacteria. Research into mortality composting of livestock has found that the temperature inside the compost reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is high enough to kill off pathogens. Farmers are using mortality composting in order to safely dispose of their dead livestock, as well as to control odor and runoff. The Urban Death Project is fine tuning this process to be appropriate and meaningful for humans in an urban setting.
Listen to Katrina’s TED Talk– Let’s Talk About Human Composting.
A bill, legalizing the process is up for consideration this year (2019). These amazing folks have been testifying in support of House Bill 1162 to legalize both recomposition and aquamation in Washington state. If you want access to more eco-friendly disposition options in PLEASE show your support here, or sign up to be part of the Grassroots policy effort to help expand death care choices in Washington state.
Mushroom Burial Suit
The Infinity Burial Suit or “Mushroom Burial Suit” was invented by Founding Order member Jae Rhim Lee.
The Infinity Burial Suit is a handcrafted garment that is worn by the deceased.
The Infinity Burial Suit has a built in biomix, made up of of mushrooms and other microorganisms that together do three things; aid in decomposition, work to neutralize toxins found in the body and transfer nutrients to plant life. via Coeio
Enjoy her viral TED Talk on the subject, My Mushroom Burial Suit.
Business Insider says the suit Could Replace Coffins.
A short documentary on one of the first humans to use the suit– Suiting Dennis: A family story of a green funeral.
Unlike the other methods on this list, Promession by designer Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak is a conceptual machine that rapidly decomposes a corpse. At this point it is only at the concept/theory stage and is not available for use (hopefully this will change soon).
The body is cryogenically frozen using liquid nitrogen, turning it into one big, brittle block of frozen flesh. The target temperature for the frozen body is -196 degrees Celsius (-321 Fahrenheit), at which point the remains should be ready to break apart.
Instead of using traditional methods of pulverization, like the bone-crushing process used for cremation, the Promator then proceeds to shake the frozen body into millimeter-sized chunks. The vibrations supposedly reduce the body to a pile of fine particles in a matter of minutes.
Once the body has been adequately reduced, the pile of remains is freeze dried to remove any excess liquid. At this point, the remains only retain about 30 percent of their initial weight, and bear no resemblance to human tissue.
Finally, the cold, dried, de-metaled remains are placed in a biodegradable container made of corn or potato starch. This ultra-green package is then buried in a shallow grave just 30-50 centimeters underground (around a foot to a foot-and-a-half), where it is still in contact with the top soil. Within six to 18 months, the remains have turned into fresh new soil, and the circle of life continues. via Atlas Obscura
Visit Promessa’s website.
Capsula Mundi is an Italian company that has developed a biodegradable egg-shaped burial pods that replace the casket.
While not significantly different than natural burial, the designers were responding to Italian laws that make un-casketed burial difficult.
Learn more about The Biodegradable Burial Pod That Turns Your Body into a Tree.