A “living coffin” has been used in a burial for the first time in the Netherlands. The coffin is made out of mycelium, a complex system of thread-like fibers that form the vegetative part of fungi. The coffin, called Living Cocoon, was developed by a Netherlands-based startup known as Loop to serve as a more sustainable option for burials.

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Speaking to Metro Newspaper, Bob Hendrikx, the founder of Loop, confirmed the successful burial. “I didn’t actually go, but I talked to a relative beforehand — it was a moving moment, we discussed the cycle of life,” Hendrikx said. “He had lost his mother, but he was happy because thanks to this box, she will return to nature and will soon be living like a tree. It was a hopeful conversation.”

Related: The many ways fungi are saving our planet

Hendrikx explained that mycelium neutralizes toxins and provides nutrients for plants growing above-ground. But mycelium’s natural properties have made it popular in many applications. “Mycelium is constantly looking for waste products — oil, plastic, metals, other pollutants — and converting them into nutrients for the environment,” Hendrikx said. “For example, mycelium was used in Chernobyl, is utilised in Rotterdam to clean up soil and some farmers also apply it to make the land healthy again.”

Bob Hendrikx and three mycelium coffins in a forest

The coffin presents an opportunity for human bodies to feed the earth after their life span. Wooden caskets can take longer than a decade to decompose. Varnished wood or metal components further slow the process. However, by using caskets made out of mycelium, we can speed up decomposition. The mycelium coffin is absorbed in the soil within 4 to 6 weeks. Further, the coffin contributes effectively to the full decomposition of the body, which then enriches the surrounding soil. The entire process can be completed in less than three years.

Currently, Loop is working with researchers to determine the effect of human bodies on the quality of the soil. According to Hendrix, the company hopes the research can persuade policymakers to convert polluted areas into forests by burying bodies in such areas.

+ Loop

Via TU Delft and The Guardian

Images via Loop