Corpses Used As Mulch

Status: True
The Telegraph reports on the latest funeral practice in Sweden: freeze-drying the corpse of your loved one using liquid nitrogen, then shattering it into a powder, picking out any metal or plastic bits, and using the powder as mulch in a garden. Says Susanne Wiigh-Masak, the inventor of this technique: "Mulching was nature's original plan for us, and that's what used to happen to us at the start of humanity - we went back into the soil." It actually seems like a pretty good idea to me. A lot of people already strew cremains in their garden.


Posted on Wed Sep 28, 2005


Sounds more like compost than mulch.
Posted by Joe  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  01:33 AM
That doesn't sound like a good idea. Cremains have been turned to minerals; it's not meat anymore. Freeze-dried meat, when water is added (rain) turns back to something much like meat -- and then it would rot. And there are a number of very good reasons why one shouldn't put meat in compost piles; the smell is just the first one.
Posted by cvirtue  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  06:22 AM
Cvirtue tried to make a good point but it doesn't work.....Freeze dried (Powdered meat) is a different story.....once it is mixed in to the sorry, it becomes something different then if you just let a piece of meat sit out and rot on the ground.
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  06:45 AM
What is the "sorry"?
Posted by 8  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  08:04 AM
What's the difference between compost and mulch? I'm not a gardener, so I have no idea.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  08:41 AM
Compost is organic matter, usually leaves and grass, that is left to decay and break down, then spread as a fertilizer.

Mulch is a covering, usually bark or chipped wood, that is generally used to protect new plants or bulbs by insulating them from the cold and protecting them from being washed away by rain.
Posted by Charybdis  in  Hell  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  09:30 AM
Some mulch (grass clippigs) breaks down like compost.
Posted by 8EΞ≡  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  11:04 AM
My sister's crazy old cow of a mother in law wants to be scattered in my sister's front yard. Kinda grossed everyone out 'til I told her "Imagine how much fun you'll have mowing."
Posted by Gee...  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  11:33 AM
I think if they came up with a more politically correct word it wouldn't sound so offensive.
Posted by Cathy  in  South Dakota  on  Thu Sep 29, 2005  at  02:22 PM
Compost is organic material placed with the intention of enriching the soil through its decomposition. Mulch is sometimes the same materials, but it's put on top of the plant beds as a protective cover (mulch can also be such things as plastic sheeting or stone chips).
I agree that what's being proposed here seems to be not mulch but copmost.

I've been telling my family for decades now that when I go, I don't want to be buried or cremated, but composted and used in a garden. It's a desire any organic gardener should understand. Whether or not my wishes will be carried out, though, I can't say.

I don't really see any need for freeze-drying, though. Both animal and plant materials, if handled properly, will decompose quite rapidly and safely without any such high-tech shenanigans.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Fri Sep 30, 2005  at  03:19 PM
I've had dried beef that was soaked in water. It was definitely meat and I'm sure it would rot in the usual manner.

"In Dead Earnest (Lee's Compost Song)," words by Lee Hays (1979), music by Pete Seeger (1979), copyright Sanga Music Inc.

If I should die before I wake,
All my bone and sinew take
Put me in the compost pile
To decompose me for a while
Worms, water, sun, will have their way,
Returning me to common clay
All that I am will feed the trees
And little fishies in the seas.
When radishes and corn you munch,
You may be having me for lunch
And then excrete me with a grin,
Chortling, "There goes Lee again."
Posted by cvirtue  on  Fri Sep 30, 2005  at  06:05 PM
i would have thought there would have been more "eww" replies to this, i myself think its a nice idea to return to the earth and rejoin the big cycle of life, however by doing that i loose out on any chance of being ressurected in a post-nuclear war world as a god of some sort
Posted by joeodd  on  Sat Oct 01, 2005  at  03:50 AM
Big Gary,
You can't put meat in a compost that will be used in soil that will in turn harvest edibles.
I compost here in NYC every week and animal products are absolutely not allowed in the compost.
'Rapidly & safely' is not the issue. (And not entirely true.)
Not sure if you care, just wanted to share.
Posted by Electra  on  Sat Oct 01, 2005  at  01:16 PM
I still maintain that, if handled correctly, animal products can be composted with no problems. I've used meat scraps, fish carcasses, etc. in compost for many years.
Some places may have local laws banning the practice, but what's legal is a different question from what's safe and practical.
There is a theory that it might be possible to transmit "mad cow" type diseases by using even sterilized, composted animal remains on vegetable fields, since some (but not all) scientists believe that the causative agent is certain molecules called "prions," which are not necessarily destroyed by composting or by heating. However, this has never been proven to be a real hazard, and such a danger would seem to be vanishingly small from human (as opposed to animal) remains.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Sat Oct 01, 2005  at  02:34 PM
"When radishes and corn you munch,
You may be having me for lunch
And then excrete me with a grin,
Chortling, "There goes Lee again."

Lee Hays was as good as his word: When he died, he did have his loved ones compost his remains. I think his body was cremated first, though, and then the ashes composted and used in his garden.
Posted by Big Gary in Dallas  on  Sat Oct 01, 2005  at  02:38 PM
I think it's a good idea. Funerals are a rip off and burial is a waste of land, which we are running out of.
Posted by ck  on  Mon Oct 03, 2005  at  08:58 AM
I thank you for giving me a better understanding for how you use the words compost and mulch. The point is to understand that this is one of the few ways to end up in the soil instead of in the air or in the groundwater. Best wishes // Susanne
Posted by Susanne Wiigh-M  on  Mon Oct 03, 2005  at  01:06 PM
Interesting ideas here from this one.

It will mean that murders will become far easier since exhumation will become impossible.

And archeaology will eventually become a lost science, since no-one will be able to find human remains.
Posted by DFStuckey  on  Mon Oct 03, 2005  at  10:24 PM for info about composting things that most places don't encourage.
Posted by tina  on  Tue Oct 04, 2005  at  11:00 AM
DFStuckey: From that point of view there's absolutely no difference from cremation, bones that doesn't turn to ashes are grinded to a powder so it can be spread. This new type of recycling is no different from that, in this respect.
Posted by Span  on  Fri Oct 07, 2005  at  03:02 PM
Span, totally correct. And the only ancient peoples that we lack detailed knowledge about are those that practiced creamtion, such as the pre-Babylonian Hindu societies and some of the Noative American tribes.
Posted by DFStuckey  on  Fri Oct 07, 2005  at  04:45 PM
I think I can do without freeze dried human remains in my garden. When it's my time, they can toast my remains and scatter them somewhere, but leave the liquid nitrogen out of it and don't use it to grow your tomatoes, thanks.
Posted by Reynard Muldrake  on  Sat Oct 08, 2005  at  07:34 PM
It is not traditional for cremains (horrible word) to be scattered rather then kept in a jar? My father's cremains were scattered in a memorial garden with other cremains (which was a very green, lush and verdant garden too....) and the idea of keeping him in a jar on the mantelpiece just seems disturbing.
Posted by Nona  on  Fri Feb 23, 2007  at  06:04 AM
I am a senior in my English IV class and we have been assigned to do an argumentative essay on a current controversial subject. A friend told me about this new, safe alternative to cremation and I immediately though that it was a great idea. I can understand how some would think the idea of cremation in any form as immoral and repulsive, but I am on the other side of the board. I think this idea should be more widely promoted and encouraged in other countries. Someone above said that they do not want to be used "to grow your tomatoes" but one can not look at it as consumption of a decomposed body, but rather the use and consumption of recycled nutrients. I was surprised to see the amount of opinions supporting this idea against those that are turning down. Im glad to see that there is hope of this becoming a more widespread practice.
Posted by CRR  on  Mon Dec 10, 2007  at  07:06 PM
I have a question about cremated remains (ashes)
My father ashes were put under a large tree covered over with mulch in October 2007, and I was wondering what happen when I remove the mulch come spring,,, will the ashes still be there or will they have gone into the ground? As you may gather I know little about what is going on under the mulch. Thank You for any information you can tell me..
Posted by GrayGoose  on  Sun Dec 30, 2007  at  10:53 PM
I hate to say, but I am unable to give you a positive answer on that particular issue. I have only recently begun researching the topic. From the small amount I have read, I would assume that the ashes would have either been integrated into the mulch or otherwise transported from their original placement, most likely farther into the ground as you assumed.
Posted by CRR  on  Tue Jan 08, 2008  at  09:39 PM
Sign me up! I knew it. I'm not weird when I suggested it to my family. And now I know other people find this cool too!
Posted by Chris as a Mulch  on  Fri Mar 12, 2010  at  12:28 AM
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