Fact Check

Biodegradable Burial Pods Turn Human Bodies Into Trees?

"Turn your loved ones into trees!" read one social media post describing the product.

Published Nov. 16, 2023

 (Capsula Mundi)
Image Via Capsula Mundi
Claim:
Biodegradable burial pods that contain cremated human remains turn bodies into trees.
Context

Bodies don't go into the pods. Rather, cremated human remains are placed in the biodegradable, plastic-derived urns, and then those urns get covered in soil. After that, a pre-existing tree gets placed top of the soil — in other words, a tree does not sprout from the pods— and, over time, the ashes mix with soil to help feed that tree. Though the urns can be purchased online, their use is not universally legal as funerary laws vary by country and state.

In lieu of traditional coffins or urns, some people are turning to a new, green approach to human burial. Cue Capsula Mundi, an Italian-based project centered on biodegradable urns that can, they say, “turn your loved ones into trees.”

“Say goodbye to coffins,” read one post on Reddit describing the egg-shaped urns, which have been featured in publications including CNN and Green Matters, as well as in a widely viewed Instagram post:

The post claimed: "Once you are buried, the biodegradable plastic shell breaks down and the remains provide nutrients to a sapling planted right above it — giving a whole new meaning to the expression family tree."

Yes, Capsula Mundi is a real company that indeed sells biodegradable burial pods meant to contain human remains. But the urns don't literally turn people, or bodies, into trees, as some social media posts suggested. For this reason, we have rated this claim as "Mostly True."

Capsula Mundi was described on its website as a biodegradable urn that is made with a kind of plastic that is “derived from organic material and has a low environmental impact.” At the time of this publication, there were two biodegradable urns available on the company website.

Here's how the products work: Cremated human remains are placed in the biodegradable, plastic-derived urns, and then those urns get covered in soil. After that, a pre-existing tree gets placed top of the soil — in other words, a tree does not sprout from the pods. Over time, the cremated remains' high pH levels neutralize, allowing for the body to decompose. Those minerals then feed the tree, so to speak.

The project website also noted that, as of this writing, it is “still in a start-up phase,” and that “this kind of burial is legal in many countries but not everywhere.” In other words, though the urns are available for public purchase on Capsula Mundi's website, their use is not universally legal. That's because laws regarding funerary practices vary by country, and, in the U.S., by state.

While so-called “green burials” are legal in all 50 U.S. states, according to the Lincoln Heritage Life Insurance Company, each state has its own rules and regulations about where, and how, they can be done. Local funeral directors are best equipped with knowledge of such laws, noted the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

Capsula Mundi pods were not the only biodegradable urns available on the market, as of this writing. Using a Google keyword search of "biodegradable urns humans," Snopes found several options available, including those that degrade in the soil and others that do so in water environments.

Sources

“Biodegradable Burial Urn.” The Living Urn, https://www.thelivingurn.com/products/eco-burial-urns. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

Burials/Cemeteries. “Green Burial, An Environmentally Friendly Choice.” Funeral Consumers Alliance, https://funerals.org/?consumers=green-burial. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

Capsula Mundi Shop. https://www.capsulamundi.it/shop/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

Erizanu, Paula. “The Biodegradable Burial Pod That Turns Your Body into a Tree.” CNN, 3 May 2017, https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/03/world/eco-solutions-capsula-mundi/index.html.

“Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).” Capsula Mundi, https://www.capsulamundi.it/en/faq/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

“Guide to Green Burial – A Natural Approach to Funerals.” Lincoln Heritage, https://www.lhlic.com/consumer-resources/green-burial/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

Instagram. https://www.instagram.com/p/Cywg3NUt7cm/?igshid=Y2NkYjk0MDhjYg%3D%3D&img_index=1. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

Krosofsky, Andrew. “These Biodegradable Burial Pods Will Turn You Into a Tree.” Green Matters, 30 June 2021, https://www.greenmatters.com/p/tree-pod-burials.

“Pin on Life in General.” Pinterest, https://www.pinterest.com/pin/145241156709280503/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

“PROJECT.” Capsula Mundi, https://www.capsulamundi.it/en/project/. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

WanderingZed. “Tree Burial Pods.” R/Sustainability, 7 Apr. 2021, www.reddit.com/r/sustainability/comments/mm6wfc/tree_burial_pods/.

“Why Certification Matters.” GREEN BURIAL COUNCIL, https://www.greenburialcouncil.org/why_certification_matters.html. Accessed 10 Nov. 2023.

Madison Dapcevich is a freelance contributor for Snopes.

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