When I retired as a humanist celebrant I thought I'd stop writing this blog, but my fascination with all things death-related prompted more posts. They're just written from a slightly different perspective, that's all. Oh, and I still do the odd one, by special request.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Freeze-drying bodies

British local authorities are struggling to keep pace with demand for burial space and to conform to new rules about emissions from crematoria. 'Green' burial sites, where trees are planted on graves instead of headstones, are few and far between.

The Swedes have found a new way to solve the problem - freeze-drying. Bodies are frozen in liquid nitrogen, and then, in their brittle state, broken into dust that can be buried in a shallow grave. I've heard old gardeners say that when they die they'd like to be buried in their compost heap. Well, now maybe they can.

One of my colleagues emailed recently:

'With British Crematoria ... facing millions of pounds of upgrading to come into line on new emissions limits it might be a good time for them to do a bit of lateral thinking. X at Y Crem told me recently that things are so bad in Z Borough Council they seldom plan anything more than a month ahead and most business is conducted on a "firefighting" basis. I don't think Z Crem will be a pioneer. Might leave the door open for the private sector to have a go.'

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Up in smoke

Up in smoke
Originally uploaded by Sparrows' Friend.
British crematoria are required by law to keep emissions to a minimum. Before we were so fussy about pollution (because the dangers weren’t recognised), bodies were cremated in all sorts of unsuitable outfits, and with all sorts of strange items in the coffins. It’s been known for relatives or friends to try to smuggle alcohol into a coffin - "he liked a little drink" – or to put coins in to pay debts. Nowadays, the coffin, lining and robes must all be made of approved materials, and checks are made that no one’s tried to place anything unsafe or unusual inside.

Cardboard coffins are becoming popular, but staff say they sometimes burn too fast. If the coffin catches fire before the door is closed, the body is exposed.

One of the latest concerns is about pollution from mercury in tooth fillings. They won’t take out your teeth, so they have to try to find other ways to stop it from escaping into the atmosphere.