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.
For smaller countries like Norway and a few other European states, land is a scarce commodity, so 20 years after a Norwegian is first buried, their plot opens up to let in a new inhabitant (unless the bereaved want to pay an annual fee to keep their loved ones roommate-free). With about 350,000 plastic-filled graves and politicians unwilling to give any extra land to the dead, one former graveyard worker, Kjell Larsen Ostbye, may have found the solution.
By relying on what he remembered from a past chemistry class, 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. It’s more than just being a great idea — it actually works. Ostbye has already treated over 17,000 Norwegian graves (which takes about 10 minutes each) in multiple cities, earning him about $US670 per plot — via redwolf.newsvine.com