This is a tale of freeze-dried disposal. First, a bit of backstory:
The method of preparing a body for disposal by freeze-drying was invented in the US by schoolteacher Philip Backman. He patented it in 1978, and that patent has now expired. Backman’s proposed method of reducing the body to particles left a little to be desired (I have emphasised the key passage in bold):
“A further step entails subjecting the intact, frozen body to fractionalizing means reducing same to a particulate state … Existing mechanical means such as that used in the reduction of organic or inorganic substances may be utilized in this step. By way of example, a hammer mill may be utilized.”
And then there was Promession, the brainchild of Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak. Promessa’s breakthrough was to develop a process whereby a dead body can be reduced to particles by means, not of hammer mill, but by gentle vibration. It was, apparently, a scientific breakthrough and, more important by far, it was an aesthetic breakthrough.
Promessa has yet, so far as we know, to demonstrate the science and there are even those who doubt whether it has been done. When Promessa UK pulled out of the enterprise in March 2012, this is what they said:
Promessa UK is not comfortable with the lack of progress in the development of Promession technology by Promessa Organic AB. In Promessa UK’s professional opinion and after a lengthy period of due diligence Promessa UK believes Promession is still at concept stage.
Following in the footsteps of Promessa came Cryomation. After extensive research they found that the only way they could reduce a freeze-dried body was by robust means. As the leader of the team told me a few years back, “The human body is a tough piece of kit.” As I understand it, they still have their sights set on the human market.
And now we have ecoLegacy. Led by Tony Ennis (pictured above), the ecoLegacy process involves not freezing the body but cooling it, and then reducing it to powder using pressure waves.
We’ve spoken to ecoLegacy and they assure us they’ve done the science.
We’ve spoken to others, who have looked impressed.
One to watch, perhaps.