A new fungal coffin called the Living Cocoon offers people an option to help their remains biodegrade more naturally. Each coffin is grown from mycelium, the prematerial from which mushrooms are grown. The designers at Loop say their Living Cocoon reduces human body decomposition time from 10 years or more inside a manufactured metal and wood coffin to just 2 or 3 years.
The idea of decomposition makes many people uneasy, and coffin design has reflected that for a long time. In places with swampier terrain, coffins are even surrounded by concrete vaults to prevent them from sinking.
“The Living Cocoon enables people to become one with nature again and to enrich the soil, instead of polluting it,” Loop’s designer Bob Hendrikx tells Dutch News. He worked with Delft University and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, both also in the Netherlands, on the project.
You’ll break down in just a few years, as opposed to a decade. https://t.co/OZhjS7awan
— Popular Mechanics (@PopMech) September 21, 2020
Why mycelium and mushrooms in particular? While the naturally decomposing human body is not pollutant to the extent that formaldehyde or manufactured varnish might be, it does release some toxic material. Different fungi absorb and extract nutrients from almost everything, including these toxins. And fungus in general can be better at breaking down the tougher materials that are part of the human body.
The Living Cocoon is slow to make, because it must be grown from living mycelium and then dried. For now, Dutch News says, it’s available from two funeral companies in the Netherlands only. But it’s not the first fungus-based burial concept, and it likely won’t be the last. Loop hopes to grow and offer its products in many more places.