Norway’s got a major corpse problem that isn’t going away anytime soon. Literally—they won’t rot. What’s the culprit behind this profusion of bodies that refuse to take their place in the circle of life? The same thing that’s also working to keep your sandwich fresh: plastic wrap.
For three decades following World War II, Norway’s burial practices involved wrapping their dead nice and tight in a layer of plastic before setting them into wooden coffins for the Big Sleep. Apparently, they believed it to be more sanitary. Hundreds of thousands of burials later, though, Norwegian funeral directors have found themselves in a bit of a tight spot. These non-rotting corpses are squatting on prime burial spots, leaving the newly deceased high and (figuratively) dry.
Land is kind of scarce in smaller countries so this is a problem. Many European cities have to reuse graves every twenty years, including Norway where you get a free plot for 20 years. (Yeah, that sounds weird to USAnians). So, along comes someone with a strange but workable solution. And I mean solution literally…
Ostbye came up with a technique for poking holes into the ground and through the plastic wrap, allowing him to inject a lime-based solution that would rapidly accelerate the decomposition process to no more than a year.
And it works, Ostbye has already treated over 17,000 Norwegian graves. It’s quick and it pays and it’s environmentally safe.
Here is the original story from the WSJ.
There is very little resistance to the procedure. They’re dead anyway; need to make room. I’m sure I must be missing something here, though. We silly Americans set aside land just for cemeteries. I don’t think it gets reused on purpose. Plus, we have the embalming and fancy caskets and all. We’re doing it wrong.
Tip: Claire Phelan