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What happens to organic material buried inside a plastic bag?

  1. Aug 9, 2011 #1
    So my mother buried her cat 5 years ago this month. I remember I wasn't home back then and it was a hard time. Yesterday we were talking about this and she asked me if I think the body is completely gone, and I said of course until she mentioned she put the cat in a plastic bag before buring it. I didn't know that, it took me by surprise and now I really have no idea whether or not the animal actually decomposed properly. What do you think happened? Could there still be fluids inside the bag after a looong time?
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2011
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 9, 2011 #2


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    Firstly depending on what the bag is made out of it may also have http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biodegradable_plastic" [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  4. Aug 9, 2011 #3


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    In addition to what ryan points out, you may wish to investigate the processes of http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decomposition#Animal_decomposition". Although anaerobic decomposition initiates within the animal, it may continue to proceed outside of the animal, if the plastic bag remains intact and when the aerobic organisms have depleted the available oxygen inside the bag.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 26, 2017
  5. Aug 9, 2011 #4
    Its ridiculously difficult to make/keep anything sterile. Just ask anybody who has ever worked in an OR or a Biologist of some sort what great lengths people must go through to make and keep things sterile.

    Unless your mother autoclaved everything and anything that came in contact with the bag, cat, dirt (including the bag, cat, dirt), there shouldn't really be any reason for the process to have slowed or halted to any appreciable degree.
  6. Aug 10, 2011 #5
    Thank you guys. But what I wonder is what is inside the bag. Just bones? Fluids? A mummy? Share your insights please.

    By the way, is there any way the plastic bag could have been perforated by action of insects, rocks or acids?
  7. Aug 10, 2011 #6


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    Well it depends on if the bag is still there, it may have degraded depending on its material. After a number of years it's bound to be just bones and some very rotten flesh. I doubt rocks would break the bag (unless you live near an earthquake zone) and I'm not sure where you get acids. It's conceivable that borrowing insects may make existing holes larger. I'm not sure if they could burrow through on their own.
  8. Aug 10, 2011 #7
    I assume he's talking about the soil's natural composition, which may make it slightly acidic.
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