The startup aims to “enrich life after death” by growing biodegradable mushroom-based coffins and urns.

When it comes to matters of life and death, a key ingredient in the conversation may be missing: the mushroom.

A new startup has found that mushrooms can go beyond filling people’s plates while they’re still alive. They can also be used to care for their bodies when they die. The company, Loop Biotech, “grows” caskets and urns by combining mycelium, the root structure of mushrooms, with hemp fibers.

Natural burial of the Netherlands
Director Lonneke Westhoff, right, and founder Bob Hendricks, left, of Dutch startup Loop Biotech, show off one of the cocoon-like coffins grown from local mushrooms and recycled hemp fiber, designed to dissolve in the environment amid more sustainable demand. funeral practice, Delft, Netherlands, Monday, May 22, 2023.

Alexander Furtula / AP

The company’s founders say they want to “collaborate with nature to leave a positive mark on humanity,” a goal that is difficult to achieve with today’s funeral practices.

A study published in Chemosphere last year found that cemeteries can be potential sources of soil and water pollution, and people in urban areas who live near overcrowded cemeteries are most at risk from the effects. Heavy metals are among the pollutants that can leach into soil and water, the study found.

And even if people choose cremation, the process emits “several pollutants,” including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide, the study authors said.

Shawn Harris, a US investor in Loop Biotech, told the Associated Press that the startup is a way to change that situation.

“We all have different cultures and different ways of wanting to be buried in the world. But I think most of us, a huge percentage of us, would like it differently,” he said. “And it’s been very old school the same way for 50 or 100 years.”

Loop Biotech offers three options, all of which they claim are “100% natural”; A “Living Cocoon” that resembles a stone coffin, a “Forest Bed” that they say is “the world’s first living burial bearer” that looks like it. a thin open-topped basket covered in moss in its bed, and a manger for those who prefer to be cremated, which comes with a plant sprouting from the ashes.

All of these items, the Dutch company says, are “grown in just 7 days” and biodegrade in just 45 days after being buried.

“We die, we end up in the ground and that’s it,” now there’s a new story. we can enrich life after death, and you can continue to bloom as a new plant or tree,” said the startup’s 29-year-old founder Bob Hendricks to the Associated Press. “It brings a new story where we can be part of something bigger than ourselves.”

In addition to being more environmentally friendly than traditional burials, the products are also less expensive, ranging from $200 to just over $1,000. A metal funeral casket costs an average of $2,500, according to the National Funeral Directors Association’s 2021 report, and a cremation casket and urn combined cost an average of $1,600. Wooden caskets cost even more, around $3,000.

So far, Loop Biotech makes about 500 caskets or urns a month and ships them only across Europe, AP reported.

“Northern European countries are where there’s more environmental awareness and also where autumn is,” Hendricks said. “So they know and understand the mushroom, how it works, how it’s part of the ecosystem.”

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