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Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Corpses (inhabitat.com) 197

An anonymous reader writes: The Urban Death Project utilizes the process of composting to safely and gently turn our deceased into soil-building material, creating a meaningful, equitable and ecological urban alternative to existing options for the disposition of the dead," said Katrina Spade, a designer based in Seattle. "The project is a solution to the overcrowding of city cemeteries, a sustainable method of disposing of our dead, and a new ritual for laying our loved ones to rest."
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Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Corpses

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    • The only thing that would make this better for me would be if I could get my corpse shot out of a cannon onto the mountain amid fireworks.

  • by sinij ( 911942 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:29PM (#51304547)
    I already did my part. This is exactly how I disposed of my mother-in-law's corpse.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:34PM (#51304561)
    isn't that a good name for a band?
  • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:36PM (#51304571)
    Soylent Brown
  • by Kylon99 ( 2430624 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:47PM (#51304609)

    Dead bodies are buried under the cherry trees. -- Motojirou Kajii.

    I imagine a field where they recycle our flesh filled with bright red cherry trees in full bloom.

  • Don't care (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Snotnose ( 212196 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @09:59PM (#51304645)
    The person in charge of me and my stuff when I'm gone knows 1 thing: as long as I'm dead I don't care what you do with me. Cremate me, bury me, donate me to science, chop me in pieces and toss me in the trash, I don't care. Just make sure I'm dead first.
  • Wood chipper (Score:4, Informative)

    by penguinoid ( 724646 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:03PM (#51304657) Homepage Journal

    Just use a wood chipper to take care of the problem. I know it works cause I saw it on TV.

    • Just use a wood chipper to take care of the problem. I know it works cause I saw it on TV.

      Yeah, but didn't they catch and convict that guy? He did murder his wife before chipping her, after all.

  • by Required Snark ( 1702878 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:05PM (#51304663)
    Most of them are currently breathing. I think this way they would be much more useful.
  • by Hartree ( 191324 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:21PM (#51304711)

    I read the headline as:

    "Urban Death Project Aims To Rebuild Our Soil By Composting Congress"

    And thought, "What an amazingly good idea!"

  • by goodmanj ( 234846 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:25PM (#51304727)

    I mean, whatever you and your family want to do with your body is fine with me, but this is just idiotic from an environmental perspective. The environmental value of your body's chemical components is totally negligible compared to what you consume over your lifetime. I mean, I eat my weight's worth of food in a few months, so returning my body's nitrogen to the farmland is almost worthless. My share of fossil fuel burning is about 17 tonnes of carbon per year, so cremating the couple of kilograms of carbon I contain makes no difference.

    The only real environmental problem with burial is that it ties up valuable urban land in a cemetery forever. Which is definitely an issue, but it's easy to solve: just get yourself cremated. This composting thing is expensive, unsafe, and a waste of time.

    • This. Whatever my dead ass does to the planet is a rounding error compared to what I've done to it so far.

      • by raind ( 174356 )
        Or every action has a consequence according to Universal Law. Everything is connected yes?
        • by khallow ( 566160 )

          Or every action has a consequence according to Universal Law. Everything is connected yes?

          I'm also connected to asteroids in the Andromeda Galaxy. Maybe we should be firing off our corpses to there at nine tenths the speed of light because of that connection.

    • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

      Cremation takes a LOT of energy:

      https://www.quora.com/How-much... [quora.com]

      And it's not "clean":
      http://faculty.virginia.edu/me... [virginia.edu]

      I don't suppose there's any data yet about how much energy it takes to compost a corpse, but at least you're getting *something* of value at the end. I'd like to think that I'm giving something back after a lifetime of consumption.

      • Cremation takes a LOT of energy

        Your link says 3 liters of fuel oil? That's about 1 hour's worth of fossil fuel usage for the average living American. Cremation probably takes longer than that, so you actually burn less carbon while you're literally on fire than while you were alive.

        at least you're getting *something* of value at the end.

        Yeah, a lifetime's worth of accumulated mercury and other heavy metals, a bellyfull of e. coli, and any parasites, viruses, and prescription drugs you happened to have whe

        • by dwywit ( 1109409 )

          I'm glad you at least clicked on the link, but you've been selective. The article:

          "A human body usually contains a negative caloric value, meaning that energy is required to combust it. This is a result of the high water content; all water must be vaporized which requires a very large amount of thermal energy.
          A 68 kg (150 lbs) body which contains 65% water will require 100 MJ of thermal energy before any combustion will take place. 100 MJ is approximately equivalent to 32 m3 (105 ft3) of natural gas, or 3 l

          • Yes, cremation requires energy input: my point all along has been that that input is tiny compared to what a living human uses over any length of time: it amounts to a few kg of carbon. Your post doesn't counter that point.

            Accumulated mercury doesn't go away during cremation, but people typically keep the cremains rather than dumping them back into their food supply, and crematoria are starting to take this issue seriously. And yes, all animals pose a drug and pathogen risk even now, which is why we typic

    • The environmental value of your body's chemical components is totally negligible compared to what you consume over your lifetime.

      This is oversimplification to the point of just plain wrong. There are chemicals in your body (and your food) that took centuries of effort and huge investments of energy for the biosphere to put together just right so you could live on them. No, I'm not talking the chemical energy in the molecular bonds, I'm referring to the long, convoluted path from inorganic raw material to useful proteins and other specialized molecules that life depends on. It is an insult to life and our planet to just burn them into

    • I mean, whatever you and your family want to do with your body is fine with me, but this is just idiotic from an environmental perspective. The environmental value of your body's chemical components is totally negligible compared to what you consume over your lifetime. I mean, I eat my weight's worth of food in a few months, so returning my body's nitrogen to the farmland is almost worthless. My share of fossil fuel burning is about 17 tonnes of carbon per year, so cremating the couple of kilograms of carbon I contain makes no difference.

      The only real environmental problem with burial is that it ties up valuable urban land in a cemetery forever. Which is definitely an issue, but it's easy to solve: just get yourself cremated. This composting thing is expensive, unsafe, and a waste of time.

      Multiply these figures by the approximate number of people who died per day last year (153,424) and the numbers are no longer negligible.

    • by zmooc ( 33175 )

      totally negligible

      That might be true, but the continuous stream of valuable nutrients (especially hosphorus!) that used to simply be returned to the ground in the form of shit and bodies that are now either buried deeply or dumped in wastewater is probably huge. We cannot keep taking stuff from the environment and dump it in the sea or in graves and expect this not to have an impact. About 1% of the human body is phosporus. We contain 4% of total yearly phosporus. After burying a few hundred years worth of human bodies this

  • With the number of pills taken by the elderly these days, not to mention people who die in the hospital who may have all sorts of compounds pumped into them before they die, I wonder if the composting process fully breaks them down, or at least to safe levels. I didn't see any mention of it in TFA.

    • Making a complete guess, since the concentrations in the body were likely non-lethal to begin with (unless it's what killed the person) the chances of it being in the soil at any kind of harmful levels after it has been rained on over and over again while the body rots is probably vanishingly small.

  • "You tell everybody. Listen to me, Hatcher. You've gotta tell them! Soylent Green is people! We've gotta stop them somehow!"
  • Happening already (Score:5, Informative)

    by no-body ( 127863 ) on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:41PM (#51304783)

    in cemetery - happy trees there.

    With this project though - the fact how bones are handled is totally left out. They sure won't compose any time soon.
    For composting, skull needs to be cracked open, bones ground up and soft body parts chopped into small pieces, like 2" dia, otherwise no composting, gets into stinky anaerobic process. A body, maybe 180 lbs > 60 % water, very challenging to compost, needs tons of carbon (wood) to compensate.

    In recycling organic waste, let's say from restaurants or supermarkets, the major problem to get this material composted is to offset the water content with wood.

    If reality kicks in with composting human bodies and gets public, people will be getting upset.

    Looks like a very loony project - scamming airheads.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      For composting, skull needs to be cracked open, bones ground up and soft body parts chopped into small pieces,

      It's been done [onsugar.com]

      • by no-body ( 127863 )

        For composting, skull needs to be cracked open, bones ground up and soft body parts chopped into small pieces,

        It's been done [onsugar.com]

        Movie Fargo has a method too - all nothing good for kickstarter...

    • You sure know a lot about disposing of human bodies.
    • Geez, the nick Dexter was already taken Doctor Nobody?
    • by c ( 8461 )

      For composting, skull needs to be cracked open, bones ground up and soft body parts chopped into small pieces, like 2" dia, otherwise no composting, gets into stinky anaerobic process. A body, maybe 180 lbs > 60 % water, very challenging to compost, needs tons of carbon (wood) to compensate.

      No problem. As part of the new burial rituals, the grieving widow pull starts the wood chipper and the pallbearers feed in the corpse, casket, and an entire bouquet of roses. It's very respectful and dignified, assumi

  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nospAm.nerdflat.com> on Thursday January 14, 2016 @10:50PM (#51304813) Journal
    This [urnabios.com] is something like what my wife and I have planned.
  • ... the trouble I get in when Seattle garbage inspectors find bodies I've thrown out in the garbage. I guess they should have been in the compostable bin.

    • Reminds me of the scene in the movie Better Off Dead:

      "Aww, what to we have here? Looks like somebody threw out a perfectly good white boy."

  • They could call it soil-lent green? It really is made from people, and grows green plants.
  • You can feed me to the crows for all it matters.

  • by camg188 ( 932324 ) on Friday January 15, 2016 @02:51AM (#51305475)

    a new ritual for laying our loved ones to rest.

    "Environmentalism is the religion of choice for urban atheists" - Michael Crichton

  • viz. the song 'Look at them beans'.

  • Can somebody (or some body) explain why this is "equitable"?

  • Izzi: Remember Moses Morales?

    Tom Creo: Who?

    Izzi: The Mayan guide I told you about.

    Tom Creo: From your trip.

    Izzi: Yeah. The last night I was with him, he told me about his father, who had died. Well Moses wouldn't believe it.

    Tom Creo: Izzi...

    Izzi: [embraces Tom] No, no. Listen, listen. He said that if they dug his father's body up, it would be gone. They planted a seed over his grave. The seed became a tree. Moses said his father became a part of that tree. He grew into the wood, into the bloom. And when a s
  • Why not feed corpses into a mincer and then plough them into a field?
  • I don't believe in an 'afterlife' or 'gods' or any of that nonsense so as far as I'm concerned once I'm dead (and you'd better be damned sure I'm completely dead first!) so far as I'm concerned you can put me through a woodchipper or a giant Blendtec blender on 'Liquify' for all I care.

    The real problem with an idea like this is all the religious types. Some of them will literally become homicidal over something like this because of their beliefs. Since we can't seem to shake off the whole 'religion' thing

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