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Developed in Sweden by biologist Susanne Wiigh-Mäsak, Promession is an environmentally friendly alternative to cremation that takes full consideration of the biological realities to which a corpse is subjected. Promession is a relatively simple process that through freezing and vibration, breaks down human remains into a fine powder, with no release of toxins into the air or high energy use usually associated with cremation.

The Process

After the funeral service, the body and coffin are removed into a chamber where it will be slowly frozen to -18°Celsius. Once frozen, it is ready to be placed on a moving platform that will transport the coffin through the different stages of the process; this part of the process takes place within a sealed unit called a Promator.

The coffin is then weighed to determine how much liquid nitrogen will be required to freeze the body to -196°C. This cooling process will take 2 hours and the liquid nitrogen will meanwhile harmlessly evaporate into the atmosphere. (Nitrogen is 80% of the air we breath).

Once the body has fully cooled, it will be mechanically transported onto a belt which in 60 seconds, using ultrasonic vibration, shatters the frozen body into powder. The powder will then move into a vacuum chamber where clean water (70% of the body’s composition) will evaporate and be dispersed into the atmosphere as natural steam.

The dry powder passes through electrical currents which will extract any metals that exist, such as dental fillings, which will be placed in a container ready to be recycled. The dry powder residue, which will weigh approximately one third of the original body weight, still within the sealed unit, will then be placed into a small bio-degradable coffin.

The remains are now ready for preferably a burial in the top soil, or cremation. Click here for an illustrated descriptive explaination.

Promession Burial

With promession, there is no hurry with the burial itself, as the organic powder which is hygienic and odourless, does not decompose when kept dry. The “promains” (promession remains), can then ideally be buried in a small coffin made of corn starch, in the topsoil (about 50cm deep) where the presence of oxygen and micro-organisms are more abundant. This would allow the coffin and its contents to rapidly breakdown organically in about 6-12 months (instead of many years it takes a traditional deep burial). A bush or tree can then be planted above the coffin, the compost formed being taken up by the plant.

Alternatively, the promains could be cremated. According to their website, smaller “mini cremators” have recently been developed with this in mind, and as the promains are only about 30% of the original body mass, the cost, energy and time required to cremate them are much reduced. As all artificial parts such as prosthetics and in particular dental fillings have already been removed during the promession process, dangerous emissions such as mercury would be eliminated.

Promession in the UK

Many countries throughout the world, have shown great interest in this technology, with the first commercial Promator supposedly due to be operating in Sweden later this year. According to Promessa UK, South Korea have already ordered a number of Promator units which are due to be delivered sometime in 2010, but to date (Septmber 2010) I have not been able to get this confirmed. Unfortunately, it is not available in the UK at present, but in the near future, if over-seas operations are successful, it could easily become a big contender.

Find out more at the Promession Website – www.promessa.org.uk

*Promession Update (Dec2009)*

As we await the outcome of the trials in Sweden, Promessa UK Ltd are suggesting Scotland (following legislation change) could be hosting the first UK Promator within 2 years. With many English Councils showing interest as well, Promessa UK Ltd hope to be offering the service throughout the UK shortly after.

This apparently depends on a change in legislation similar to that which allowed Cremation in its current form to be carried out. Those in favour of Promession hope a show of names will speed things along, and so a petition has been created on the Number 10 website, that any interested parties may sign. If you would like to add your name to the “Petition for legislation change (England, Wales & N.Ireland) in favour of Promession”, go to http://petitions.number10.gov.uk/promessionlaw/