There are many things you can do to live a sustainable lifestyle while you’re still breathing, but what about when you die? If you are buried in a traditional coffin, it could take at least years for the coffin to degrade, and the materials caskets are made of – plastics, varnish, metals – can harm the environment.
To combat that, Netherlands-based startup Loop Biotech created a biodegradable coffin made entirely from nature. The Loop Living Cocoon is a coffin made from mycelium (the underground root network of mushrooms) and upcycled hemp. In the right conditions, the Living Cocoon biodegrades in just 45 days, Loop Biotech founder Bob Hendrikx tells Green Matters in an exclusive interview.
The Loop Biotech biodegradable coffin is actually good for the soil.
“With this product, you're adding value to the soil instead of polluting the soil,” Hendrikx says of the Loop Biotech coffin.
The coffin’s materials are also easier to grow than a tree that is sourced for a wood coffin. While trees can take years to grow, the mycelium grows in only seven days and adds extra nutrients to the soil during the process.
“It’s the only coffin in the world that actually benefits nature,” Hendrikx says.
Hendrikx and co-founder Lonneke Westhoff started Loop Biotech in 2020. According to the company’s website, the two got the idea for the biodegradable coffins when, on a walk through the forest, they “observed how mushrooms have the remarkable ability to transform fallen trees into new life.”
Loop Biotech's coffin has a unique rounded shape, to better emulate nature.
At first, the company’s budget only allowed them to create a square coffin, Hendrikx says. They played with some organic-shaped prototypes, but the investment to scale them was too high, he says.
Finally, the company raised enough funds, which allowoed the team to "finally invest in proper molds, and the organic shape became a reality," Hendrikx says.
Loop Biotech released its improved, more organic version of the Loop Living Cocoon in May 2023. Hendrikx describes the materials of the Loop coffin as "super fluffy" and "extremely soft, which gives you a warm feeling.”
“This is what mushrooms are meant to be. They empower us to enrich life after death,” Hendrikx tells us.
Loop Biotech makes other biodegradable burial products.
Do you plan on being cremated? Loop Biotech also makes an biodegradable urn from the same material as its coffin. The Loop EarthRise is designed to completely reintegrate into nature. Shaped like the trunk of a tree, the urn has a tree sapling or other plant in its lid. When buried in the ground, the urn biodegrades in 45 days, providing nutrients to help the plant grow.
The urn only biodegrades if you bury it, so you can choose instead to decorate it and put it on your fireplace mantle or bookshelf.
Loop Biotech also makes the Loop ForestBed, an open-top coffin cot on which the deceased lie wrapped in a biodegradable cloth.
What does the biodegradable coffin cost?
The Loop Living Cocoon costs about $1,071 (€995), which is on the low end of the price of a traditional casket. Traditional coffins can cost up to $10,000. The Loop EarthRise urn costs about $212 (€197).