Currently in the UK around 75% of all funerals are completed with a cremation rather than a traditional burial incorportating headstones. This figure shown a substantial increase since 1940, were only 10% of all funerals ended in cremation.
The growth in cremation was due to a number of influences;
1) Perception that cremation was a more responsible form of burial minimising space required and reducing public health issues.
2) Decline in religious concerns regarding cremation.
3) Cost – A typical cremation is approximately £250 compared with £750 for a grave burial including the cost of headstones and memorials.
4) Lack of availability of traditional burial sites. Many existing cemeteries are now full and new developments have long waiting lists.
A major report completed in 1997 found that in many inner city areas only nine years of non-denominational burial space left available.
However in light of recent publicity regarding climate change and global warming there is a renewed interest in traditional burials.
There is no doubt that cremation uses gas to burn a wooden coffin, omitting harmful carbon dioxide gases into the environment.
Thus we have seen a growth in ‘’eco-friendly’’ burial services, however many of these solutions tend to be expense and hold only a niche interest.
We have however also seen a growth since the mid nineties in Woodland or Natural burial sites. This activity effectively uses new burial sites in the natural environment and has taken advantage of the relaxation in Local Authority regulations and the need to generate more burial sites outside of normal cemeteries. Many of these projects now have a strong commercial agenda and can be seen running local advertising campaigns encouraging people to ‘book’ their space. Many Natural Burial sites promote the planting of a tree to act as a memorial in place of the normal memorial headstones.
With over 500,000 deaths in England & Wales each year many believe a more intensive and efficient ‘natural’ burial system is required that can meet current demand and prove economically viable when compare to the cost of cremation.
Ideas have included the reuse of existing cemeteries and burials without coffins, however many experts feel a more radical approach may be required.