Corpse composting: "Are people really ready for this?"

Brussels is eager to create more opportunities for people to dispose of their bodies in an ecologically friendly way when they are dead: at present you can only be buried or cremated in the Belgian and Flemish capital, but corpse composting and bio cremation could soon be here!

Burying or cremating a corpse still places a burden on the environment. Allowing bodies to decay in a coffin has a tremendous impact on the soil, while a cremation requires an awful lot of energy and harmful substances including particulate matter are released.

In Brussels lawmakers will be looking at regional legislation that will allow the composting of corpses as well as bio cremation. In the event of corpse composting the body of the deceased is wrapped in a biologically degradable material and a mixture of chips of wood, leaves and compost accelerators. A layer of straw is placed above. After only a few months the flesh will have composted and the bones will have turned to dust. Compost is all that remains after a year.

Bio cremation also called alkaline hydrolysis, resomation, flameless cremation or water cremation means the body is placed in a vat of water together with an acid. At a temperature of 180 degrees the tissue is completely degraded after only three hours. White powder remains. It's like ashes and can be placed in an urn or not.

Johan Dexters of the undertakers' federation: "Our sector is open to all novelties that are brought to the market. We're not quite convinced about corpse composting. People think of a midden. Are people really ready for this? Won't it smell and won't animals rummage in it?"

Mr Dexters is far more enthusiastic about bio cremation that could take place in existing crematoria.