Burials are religiously and emotionally an important aspect of some cultures. However, burials in most western countries are an expensive affair, with wooden caskets costs ranging between $2,000 to $10,000. As for the act itself, it is becoming harder as grave slot become scarcer.
The funeral industry in the US is nearly $20 billion dollars. It’s aimed at making the deceased look as alive as possible behind laying them down in expensive, silk-lined coffins. However, burials in ancient times were a way to send back the body to Earth in a cyclic completion of life.
Now a Dutch start-up is going back to the basics with ‘mushroom coffins.’ These are structures made of mycelium, the vegetative part of an underground fungus. According to DailyMail, Bob Hendrikx, the inventor of living cocoon coffin claims that this coffin speeds up decomposition. The toxic materials from the ground are removed and new trees or plants can grow in that spot.
After months of testing, the first funeral finally took place in Netherlands. According to The Guardian, the relatives of the first living cocoon funeral are happy with this choice. The daughter of the deceased says thinking that she would live on as a tree later makes the process more bearable.
Hendrikx believes that becoming a part of nature, enriching the Earth, instead of polluting it his vision.
The start-up is in conversations with scientists to evaluate the human body’s decomposition in the soil. He hopes that they can lobby with the lawmakers to promote living coffin as an alternative, as traditional burials can take decades to decompose the body and the burial spot essentially remains mostly a cemented structure.
The process can be a good opportunity to turn polluted areas into healthy, living forests. According to a BBC report from 2015, the world is running out of burial space. A survey then indicated that nearly half of England’s cemeteries could run out of the space in the following two decades.
New ways have been devised like an indoor cemetery where rows of ‘drawers-like’ tombs are built on vertical walls. However, many religious people believe that it is not the same as going back into the ground. It remains to be seen how accepting the public would be of this eco-friendly alternative to traditional burials.