MEXICO CITY – While environmentally friendly funerary processes are still hard to come by, growing one’s departed loved ones into trees could become the norm in the future.
David Morales, a researcher with the Chemistry Institute at Mexico’s National Autonomous University (UNAM), told EFE that overpopulation and a growing shortage of plots, as well as the high amount of air and water pollutants released in burials and cremations will be a decisive factor toward eco-friendly ways of dispose of human remains.
Oscar Chavez, planning director at Gayosso, Mexico’s leading provider of funerary services, said that, while clients often choose peculiar ways of honoring their dead loved ones, the current practices are bound to disappear due to an increasing environmental awareness.
Traditional burial and cremation processes involve a high amount of harmful chemicals, including varnishes and paints, as well as metallic ornaments used to adorn caskets, Morales said.
“If (the body) is cremated, it goes up into the atmosphere; if it is buried, most of the components find their way into the earth, polluting the soil,” he said, adding that such contaminants can also cause groundwater pollution.
Mercury – which is added to bodies to preserve them – is also a harmful component.
To counter the harmful effects of traditional body disposal methods, new solutions have emerged over the past few years, including the use of organic pods, subjecting bodies to alkaline hydrolysis and even turning organic carbon into graphite.
Alkaline hydrolysis – also known as biocremation – is a process that has been recently introduced in Mexico, which consists of “accelerating the natural decay process through the use of water and temperature,” yielding zero emissions.
According to Chavez, clients can also opt for a salt pod, which allows relatives to dispose of their loved ones’ ashes in the ocean, or even compost husks that grow human remains into trees.
Yet of the 18,500 funerary services that Gayosso expects to provide this year, only 2 percent of clients will choose from among the environmentally friendly options, a figure the company expects to rise to 5 percent within the next few years.