a method of burying human remains which involves turning the cadaver into compost through the use of cryogenic freezing, vibration, and freeze-drying and inserting the powdered remains in a biodegradable casket which is then shallowly buried in living soil.
méthode de disposition de cadavre qui consiste à la désintégration du corps en le plogeant dans de d’azote liquide puis en le posant sur une table vibrante.
Promession is a new ecological method of burial invented in Sweden by Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak. It uses techniques that prepare the corpse for a natural process of decomposition. It is billed as an alternative to cremation, as the latter uses fossil fuels and produces a lot harmful emissions such as CO2 and mercury in the environment. It tends to be very popular with people who want a green burial, as it does not subject the body to violent or destructive handling and is an ideal way for the body to be re-absorbed into the ecosystem. As of yet, promession has only been tested on naturally expired cow and pig cadavers. A promatorium was slated to open in Sweden by 2011, but government officials and the Church of Sweden decided not to move forward with the plan. Wiigh-Mäsak is undeterred, however. She purportedly has 12 frozen bodies awaiting the first promession. And why shouldn’t she remain optimistic? The process is gaining a lot of interest in many countries such as the U.K. and South Korea, both of which have an official license to operate a promatorium, with legislation pending in the U.S., South Africa, and Germany. California is scheduled to be the first state to possibly build a promatorium. Who knows, Canada could soon follow suit.
Here is a video showing how promession works:
If you don’t have access to sound or video, here’s a written explanation. The body is placed in a machine called a Promator. After this, the entire process is automated, which means this is the last step in which the body is handled by human hands. The cadaver is cooled to -18 °C. It then undergoes a cryogenic freezing process (using liquid nitrogen) which takes it to -196 ºC. The freezing crystallizes the body and makes it brittle enough to be disintegrated into tiny particles with the use of ultrasonic vibration. The remains are then collected so that they can be freeze-dried in order to remove any remaining water. Items such as artificial limbs can then be claimed by the family, or discarded. Afterwards, any metals such as mercury, sodium, or other foreign substances are separated from the freeze-dried remains, and what is left is inserted in a biodegradable coffin made from corn or potato starch. The coffin is then buried at depths of around 15 to 30 cm. Within 6 to 18 months, the remains will turn into nourishing soil from which plants can grow. The first bovine subjects apparently produced lovely roses.
To lend your support to Promessa, you can sign up here for more information, or to donate to their cause.
Holst, Karen. “Swedish green-burial firm to turn frozen corpses into compost.” The Local. 13 Apr. 2011. Accessed Apr 4. 2015.
“Promession.” DeathLab. Columbia University: New York. 2013. Accessed Apr 2. 2015.
Tufnell, Nicholas. “Freeze-drying the dead could help save the planet.” Wired. Oct 14. 2013. Accessed Apr 4. 2015.
Wiigh-Mäsak, Suzanne. Promessa Organic AB. Accessed Apr 4. 2015.