Cool idea rides again

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-MäsakPromessa’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. 

Keep calm and do the science

Well-meaning ignorance fuels lots of heated debate in Funeralworld. Broadsides of stats are exchanged, but how many of them are verifiable? In one thing we can trust: probably no one’s yet done the science. 

Take the following press release from the respected news agency Reuters: 

Globally, cremation emits over 6.8 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, accounting for around 0.02 percent of world carbon dioxide emissions, experts estimate.

Typical. Authoritative-sounding stats undermined by the last two words. Substitute ‘some people guess’. 

What follows, though, will interest those who have been following the freeze-dry saga and its two players, promession and its successor, cryomation. We’ve always been fans of the Cryomation people here at the GFG.

Suffolk-based Cryomation Ltd has developed a technology which freezes a body using liquid nitrogen until it is brittle, removes metal elements and turns the remains into a powder which could be composted, buried in a natural graveyard or scattered.

Having proven the technology, the firm is now seeking 1.5 million pounds to build the first unit.

We believe this to be correct.

“The cryomation process has been talked about for far too long but never been delivered,” said Paul Smith, business development manager at parent company IRTL.

Right, Paul. Yes, we can read between the lines!

“Our technology (..) can remove moisture at a cost-effective rate and at a suitable speed to make it a viable alternative to cremation with lots of environmental benefits,” he added.

Excellent. And the first part of the next sentence certainly rings true:

A report last year by Dutch research group TMO said resomation and cryomation had the lowest environmental impact of all funeral methods and burial had the highest.

What?!? Burial’s the worst of the lot??

Indeed, burial is not a “green” option. It takes up space underground, the decaying process emits the greenhouse gas methane and caskets use a lot of steel, copper, bronze or wood.

Think what we could do with all that underground space. As for methane, is this, someone please tell us, a graveyard myth? If it’s a myth it certainly once had me fooled but I think, am I right? that it’s been exploded. Does it actually pose any risk at all? If it does, the solution lies in ensuring that buried dead people enjoy aerobic decomposition by burying them nearer the surface. As for caskets, well, we needn’t bother ourselves with them, we’re mostly good ole toe-pincher people over here. 

The effect of formaldehyde-based embalming chemicals when they leak into the soil and air through burial is also thought to be potentially damaging but needs more research.

Thought to be, eh? We’ll wait for them to finish their ‘more research’ if you don’t mind. Uttering hunches while they’re at it rather negates the point of doing it, yes? Surely it can’t be that flipping difficult to discover what happens to formaldehyde when it seeps into the earth. 

If any reader can help us out with some verifiable facts in these areas, you’ll be doing us all a great kindness. 

Full story here