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28 Nov 2004

burial or cremation?
Which, overall, is the most environmentally sound way to have one's mortal remains disposed of? I don't think I'd like my remains to be cremated because I consider graveyards a waste of precious land, but what about the smoke from incineration?
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Expert
EnviroHealth expert
envirohealth expert

01 Jan 0001

Proponents of the green funeral/ natural burial concept would say go for burial over cremation. Cremation releases toxins such as formaldehyde, hydrogen chloride and mercury into the environment, and incinerators also require considerable amounts of energy to run. The natural burial route i.e. without embalming the body, using a simple coffin made of a biodegradable material (like cardboard), is definitely preferable. More conventional burials often use embalming processes and coffins containing toxic substances that slowly enter the ground, or materials that take a long time to break down. But even so, the environmental impact in terms of toxins is less than that of cremation. <br><br>As you point out, the main drawback to burial, conventional or otherwise, is that it requires land. This has reached crisis point in South Africa, where cemeteries cannot accommodate the increase in burials, primarily as a result of HIV/Aids deaths. Green/natural burial is an increasingly well-established practice in countries like the UK, where private or local authority land has been set aside for this purpose, but such facilities are very limited in this country. If anyone has more information about natural burial in South Africa, please post it on the forum.
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