Alternatives to Traditional Burials: Biodegradable Pod Turns Bodies into Trees

Capsula Mundi is an egg-shaped pod that allows for a buried corpse or ashes to supply a tree planted above it with nutrients and help it grow.

Indeed, our carbon footprint doesn’t end with our death- while we rest in peace, the wood, the synthetic cushioning, and the metals used in traditional coffins and the concrete surrounding the graves will still litter our planet.

According to Jennifer DeBruyen, an associate professor of Biosystems Engineering and Soil Science at Tennessee University, there’s a lot of energy going into the production of these materials that are used shortly and then placed deep in the ground.

DeBruyen claims they won’t dissolve fast.

Capsula Mundi May Be the Solution to Sustainable Burial?

Anna Citelli and Raoul Bretzel may have the answer to a more sustainable burial.

It’s called the Capsula Mundi, an egg-shaped, organic casket which is suitable for dead bodies, but its ashes too.

When it’s buried, according to its creators, its biodegradable plastic shell dissolves and the remains nourish the sapling planted above it.

For the creators of this device, death is associated with consumerism same as life is.

So, they want to create cemeteries that are full of trees instead of tombstones and to lower garbage and make new life from death.

What Was the Inspiration for the Capsula Mundi?

The idea for this device has been present since 2003 when the pair saw a lot of furniture tossed at the end of a famous design fair in Milan.

Bretzel explains how it was a major competition to create new things; however, no one seemed to care about the influence on the future and whether anyone would actually use these things.

So, they began considering projects with an eco aspect.

Death is a part of our lives but, at fairs, no one cares about this as it’s something we don’t want to look at.

For most people, death isn’t a part of life.

The Science of the Capsula Mundi

The bacteria in the soil first dissolve the bioplastic and then the ashes come into contact with the soil. It changes its chemical balance a bit, not too much.

Even though the ash burial may seem eco-friendly, cremation is also often criticized by environmentalists because of its high-energy demand.

What’s more, the older dental fillings can emit polluting mercury and this is why some crematoriums have mercury filters installed.

Even though a seed on its top may seem attractive, according to Jacqueline Aitkenhead-Peterson, associate professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University, more mature trees should be used.

This is because the body will purge within 12 months in a buried surrounding and the nutrients will get released into the soil quite fast.

So, a tree with a decent size planted on the top would be pivotal. Catching these nutrients is vital for the protection of groundwater.

Are there Benefits for the Environment?

DeBruyen believes the capsule is eco-friendly.

Namely, as traditional burial methods are entirely anaerobic and the degradation is incomplete, the pods may help keep the oxygen flow.

Also, they bring carbon from the bioplastic.

One of the challenges with human body decomposition is the high level of nitrogen. So, the microbes trying to dissolve the nitrogen require some carbon for balance.





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