01. Oct 2015

Caskets to die for

Marieke Havermans, a Dutch entrepreneur, is fast taking the idiom "from cradle to grave” to an entirely new level. A packaging expert, she has developed a new ecological casket made of 100% biological materials that will decompose via natural processes in the ground within a period of some 10 years.

And for those who prefer cremation: the casket will burn cleanly, reducing toxic emissions by up to 75% compared to conventional caskets.

The idea for environmentally friendly coffins arose in 2012, ands Havermans decided to go for it. Market research revealed that this was a product that had not yet been attempted to be made from bioplastic. She resigned from her job and started her company, Onora, in 2012, funded by an investor who believed in the project, a crowdfunding campaign and the proceeds from two awards, including the MKB Export Award.

The caskets are made of a purpose-designed bioplastic based on starch derived from byproducts from the seed and potato processing industry. They are among the biggest single products ever made completely from bioplastic. Only natural pigments are used as colorants. The caskets are injection molded; the two, huge molds, one for the lid and one for the coffin itself, were built in China.

The casket is basically a thin-walled container with reinforcing ribs and stiffening features, that can accommodate up to 150 kg of weight. Moreover, this structure means that far less material is needed to produce the coffin, which helps to keep the costs down. Because the coffin is injection molded, not only can features such as grips can be integrated in the design, fasteners, such as screws, and adhesives are also unnecessary.

According to Havermans, the casket has rounded corners and an organic form: “based on a cocoon,” she says. The coffins come with a comfortable matrass and pillow made of hemp fiber, an eco-cotton sheet and, if desired, a blanket made of ecological Dutch wool.


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