Body disposal technology going green

2012-09-12 22:20
Shutterstock

Shutterstock (Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

London - Burnt, buried or frozen and turned to powder are some of the options for dealing with the remains of a loved one whose last wishes include lessening death's environmental impact.

Our demise can have a big environmental impact. Around three quarters of people in the United Kingdom alone are cremated after they die but cremation uses about the same amount of domestic energy as a person uses in a month.

Globally, cremation emits over 6.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide every year, accounting for around 0.02% of world carbon dioxide emissions, experts estimate.

It also causes mercury pollution when tooth fillings are vaporised. Currently, up to 16% of all mercury emitted in the United Kingdom comes from crematoria, which could rise to 25% by 2020 without any action, according to government figures.

The UK government is forcing cremators to fit mercury filters by the end of 2012 to halve mercury emissions although statistics are not yet available on progress towards this goal.

Technology

Some companies are trying to cut overall emissions from funeral technologies by developing alternatives to cremation.

In India, Hindus traditionally cremate dead bodies by burning firewood in an open ground.

The wood required comes from 50 to 60 million trees a year. When burnt, they emit some 8 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, according to Mokshda, a Delhi-based non-governmental organisation which is working to reduce the environmental impact of funeral pyres.

The group says it has developed an alternative system which reduces heat loss, requires much less wood than a conventional pyre and cuts emissions by up to 60%.

Resomation


In the UK, Scotland-based Resomation has developed a process which breaks down a corpse chemically in an alkaline solution.

Although the process uses very high temperatures to heat remains in a pressurised container, the firm claims the process uses one seventh of the energy of a standard cremation and cuts greenhouse gas emissions by 35%.

Resomation still has to be approved by the UK government for use in Britain but the firm has installed resomators in the United States, where some states allow it.

Suffolk-based Cryomation has developed a technology which freezes a body using liquid nitrogen until it is brittle, removes metal elements and turns the remains into a powder which could be composted, buried in a natural graveyard or scattered.

Having proven the technology, the firm is now seeking £1.5m to build the first unit.

"The cryomation process has been talked about for far too long but never been delivered," said Paul Smith, business development manager at parent company IRTL.

"Our technology can remove moisture at a cost-effective rate and at a suitable speed to make it a viable alternative to cremation with lots of environmental benefits," he added.

A report last year by Dutch research group TMO said resomation and cryomation had the lowest environmental impact of all funeral methods and burial had the highest.

Burial

Indeed, burial is not a "green" option. It takes up space underground, the decaying process emits the greenhouse gas methane and caskets use a lot of steel, copper, bronze or wood.

The effect of formaldehyde-based embalming chemicals when they leak into the soil and air through burial is also thought to be potentially damaging but needs more research.

However, for those seeking a greener burial, there are options. Natural or woodland burials are gathering pace in the UK. Over 260 such sites now operate across the country, since the first one opened almost 20 years ago.

Bodies are buried in a woodland setting, field or meadow in wicker, cardboard, or other environmentally sound coffins.

Environmental concerns, wanting to reconnect with nature, reducing the burden on families to look after traditional graves and cost are the main drivers for people choosing a natural burial, a Durham University study said last month.

Read more on:    environment
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
7 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Joburg hot spots for cocktails, craft beer, tapas and wine!

It’s the season to be jolly – so we’ve rounded up some new Joburg hot spots!

 
 

I love summer.24

Summer Survey!
Great ideas for the best summer sandwiches!
Christmas lingerie to make this festive season the best one ever!
13 things you might not know about Disneyland

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

The energy today is serious, materialistic and hardworking. You may find you get a new outlook on things and you may want to spend...read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.