Dead family duck inspires South Africa biodegradable urn business

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In South Africa, a startup is manufacturing biodegradable urns that promote tree growth in order to address outdated and environmentally damaging burial practices.

Biotree.earth was founded by 60-year-old Dereck Holmes and 28-year-old Christo Cilliers. The urns are made out of plant fibers and materials that fertilize soil and lower the pH levels of cremains to create a favorable environment for tree growth. A successful trial in 2016 grew a lavender shrub from the cre-mains of a pet duck named Gosling.

“I feel that the funeral industry is very dated, our practices are very dated and they are not considerate of the environment at all. And I just believe that there’s a time and space, that is now, to start addressing that industry and create a more sustainable alternative,” Cilliers tells Forbes Africa.   “Crema-tion in itself is not necessarily sustainable because when we cremate a body, there is still a carbon off-set that we need to deal with because we are releasing carbon back into the atmosphere,” he adds. “One adult tree produces about 170 kg of oxygen a year. And then I went ‘but is that enough to offset what we are doing with cremation’?”

Pet urns sell for R2,290 ($152), while human urns will set you back R2,490 ($166).