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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 September 2005, 16:00 GMT 17:00 UK
Sweden set for freeze-dry burials
Church in Jonkoping, Sweden
The new funerals will be available in a religious part of Sweden
A Swedish town is preparing to become the first to adopt a radical new form of environmentally friendly funeral.

Freeze-dried burials will be offered as an option in the town of Jonkoping by 2007, local officials have said.

Invented by ecologists keen to connect funerals with the organic environment, the process sees bodies frozen in liquid nitrogen, then broken into dust.

The frozen remains can be buried in a shallow grave, where they decompose and nourish the earth within weeks.

Churches have backed the plan, describing the issues as ethically similar to those addressed when approving cremation about 100 years ago.

Jonkoping, a town of 120,000, lies in a religious area of protestant Sweden.

Nature's original plan was that we fall down somewhere in a field and become soil
Susanne Wiigh-Maesak
But Goran Rundqvist, head of the town's parks and graveyard division, said the scheme was enjoying broad support.

"People in the town here are very interested in this. People across the whole of Sweden are waiting to see this," he told the BBC News website.

"There are no problems with the church or with any of the people."


Susanne Wiigh-Maesak, a Swedish biologist who has worked on the project for seven years, says the process is deeply rooted in respect for the dead and for the natural environment.

Susanne Wiigh-Maesak
Ms Wiigh-Maesak would like a rhododendron to grow on her grave
"Nature is very skilled at breaking down organic material, and we really should learn from this," she told the BBC.

Under the process, billed by Ms Wiigh-Maesak as "ecological burial", bodies are dipped in a bath of freezing liquid nitrogen.

The brittle bodies are then mechanically shaken so that they begin to break down into small particles.

The process removes water from the body without destroying its biological identity, Ms Wiigh-Maesak said.

Freeze-dried remains buried just under the surface of the ground can return to the ecological cycle much quicker than those buried in deep graves and coffins.

Ms Wiigh-Maesak's company, Promessa Organic, recommends planting a tree above the grave, which can be nurtured as a living reminder of the deceased.

"Nature's original plan was that we fall down somewhere in a field and become soil," she said.

"Since then we have made it really complicated."

Swedes offer freeze-dry burials
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