Eco-friendly way to get to afterlife

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 May, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 May, 2010, 12:00am

Freeze-drying your loved one's remains and then breaking the body into dust may sound like something from a horror movie, but it not only allows them to return to nature in the cleanest possible way, it may also offer a solution to the city's problem on illegal columbariums.

While the technology, known as promession, is not widely practised in its birthplace, Sweden, its founder, biologist Susanne Wiigh-Masak, said the service was used by 18 million Koreans in the past four years.

Now the biologist and keen gardener is eyeing the Asian market and selling the technique at Hong Kong's third Asia Funeral Expo, which opened yesterday at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai.

Wiigh-Masak said her booth was approached by traders from 60 cities - including a Hong Kong charity. 'What is left after the process can return to nature in 18 months, and leaves no air pollutants even when cremated,' she said.

The biologist said cremation of the remains from promession was not advised, and the dust was best buried in a biodegradable box. 'Before the remains are fully decomposed, the family of the deceased can take some of the soil as a keepsake.'

The method, if made available in Hong Kong, may offer a solution to the city's acute shortage of urn places, which has led to a boom in illegal columbariums.

Promession costs Euro290 (HK$2,855) and extra is charged if the client requires cremation of the remains.

Also on offer at the funeral expo are a number of creative ways to ensure comfort in the afterlife. Taiwan company Skea, for instance, makes sophisticated paper offerings.

If you cannot afford to buy a flat at The Masterpiece or 39 Conduit Road, - which costs more than HK$30,000 per square foot - in your life time, you might as well fulfil your dream in the next world. A high-quality paper bungalow, to be burned as an offering, costs between HK$5,000 and HK$40,000.

Designers will make all furniture for the house - jacuzzi, garden, car and even your grandmother's favourite couch - at no extra cost.

Han Ding-yu, Skea's chief consultant, said the houses were so popular in Taiwan that the company had seen '40 to 60 per cent growth every year' since it opened 2007.