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'Eco-burial' turns bodies into compost

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, April 15 (UPI) -- A Swedish company promoting "green" burials says it will turn frozen corpses into compost, bringing new meaning to "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

Returning to the earth in an ecologically friendly manner that nourishes the soil is an idea Swedish scientist Susanne Wiigh-Masak has been working on for most of a decade, The Local reported Wednesday.

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"We need to look at how we can take care of all organic material, including us. Our options today are definitely not appealing -- slowly rotting in the soil or destroying the body by burning it in a way that is not gentle," she says.

Wiigh-Masak said she wants to bring this 100 percent ecological burial alternative she calls "promession" to the wider world.

"Promession reshapes, dries and allows the body to be cared for by the soil," she said. "It offers a very natural connection with nature and a more appealing way to consider death."

She established the company Promessa Organic in 1997, inspired by the Italian word promessa, meaning oath or truth.

The first step of promession is to remove the approximately 70-percent water component from the corpse. The body is then frozen in liquid nitrogen, becomes very brittle, and is then reduced to a fine organic powder and placed in a biodegradable container made of cornstarch.

"The remains are buried in a shallow grave and the living soil turns it into compost in about six to twelve months," Wiigh-Masak said.

She suggests planting a tree or rosebush next to grave so the composted soil will support the plant's life.

"It's a beautiful and more joyful way to understand where the body has gone," she says.

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