Saturday 2 November 2019

Recycle my arse

. . . and my arms, aorta, amygdala, adrenals, adenoids, arteries and appendix [YMMV on the appendix] and the B C D . . .  X Y zygaphophyses, zygomatic arch, zonula of Zinni. The whole darn shootin' match converted into potting soil. What's not to like about that?

Standard practice in Ireland is still burial; in a chipboard coffin with a veneer of "oak" and hollow brass handles, just strong enough for the ten minutes of heft that will carry the corpse from hearse to church to earth. Even that last lift of respect by the family is being replaced by a little fold-up trolley. When my father died in England, and I suggested that we might carry the coffin into church, the undertaker had a [demure, respectful] fit. Coffin-carrying is so alien to English tradition that nobody gets any practice. All the undertaker could see was that time the coffin was [almost] dropped.

Cremation is just beginning to make inroads in the corpse disposal market, as it becomes unacceptable on account of the carbon footprint: 250kg of C02 to dispose of a 70kg average person. Five years ago, The Blob looked at resomation the chemical option of deconstruction by concentrated sodium hydroxide / lye / caustic soda. It takes the same time as cremation and leaves a coliform-free greenish liquid that can be sprinkled on the fields - maybe after adjusting the pH to nearly neutral, hmmm?

Let's get back to the soil. You can make nitrogenous fertiliser by chemical means by applying heat and pressure to the nitrogen in the air and creating ammonia. Although atmospheric nitrogen is effectively unlimited and freely available - the Haber-Bosch process to make ammonia is really expensive in energy carbon units. Amazingly whole classes of bacteria including Rhizobium spp. are able to 'fix' atmospheric nitrogen by using enzymes - at normal temperature and pressure. Very fuel-efficient but it takes while.

Katrina Spade is digging deep to make apply similar principles to body degradation [BBC]: make the microbes do the work. You can do this if you add (ingredient list for cooks)
  • prebiotics - seemingly that is in large measure wood chips
  • a little heat - to bring the recompose ™ pod up to 55°C to 
    • kill the coliforms and pathogens
    • encourage thermophilic anaerobic bacteria
    • heat requirement is reported as being 1/8th that required for cremation.
  • time - about 30 days rather than 3 hours for cremation
I dunno, my experience is that the lactic acid bacteria in grass clippings will get a compost pile up to 55°C in a couple of days. Maybe some dicking about with the compost recipe will allow the microbes to do the heavy lifting on temperature as well as digesting all that fat and bone. Recompose seems to be a good compromise between time and energy input. It's going to be priced accordingly at about $5,000 compared to trad coffin burial at $7,000 and cremation nearer to $1,000. The facility [imagined R] has to be convenient to urban centres where land is expensive and the fermentation cells need to be properly engineered for multiple uses as opposed to the one-time cheapo packaging of coffins.

Plenty of interest in the Recompose FAQs
  • What's the output?
    • About 1cu.m. of soil
  • Can I donate my corneas, kidneys first?
    • Of course!
  • What happens to the bones/teeth?
    • Whoof!: NH3 C02 H2O
  • What about my meds, last-ditch antibiotics?
    • decomposed entirely: they're not harder than teeth
  • What about my titanium hip?
    • screened out along with amalgam fillings, pacemakers, face hardware
  • Any exclusions?
    • not keen on prions like Creutzfeld-Jakob Disease [bloboPrev], or Ebola
  • Can I invest in your enterprise?
    • Ye$ for DIY help and advice [via MeFi]

1 comment:

  1. Check out Ask a Mortician on you tube about aqua cremations