What is the environmental impact of cremation?
People are becoming more aware of the environmental impact of traditional burials, which use an enormous amount of resources, such as rare woods and metals in the casket and cement for a required bunker to line the grave sites, and release toxins from embalmed bodies. The open space used for cemeteries is also a concern for crowded urban areas and countries. But what about the environmental impact cremation generates?
Cremation has progressed from, coke fired through to gas and electric cremators over a period of 100 years. Almost all cremators use gas. The use of gas, a finite reserve, and the creation of air pollution, are adverse criticisms of this process. To keep this in perspective, the historical factors which support cremation need to be considered. Cremation was introduced in response to the ever increasing use of land for burial. Using the land for producing food was important, particularly following the last world war. In addition, the clean and clinical impact of cremation was seen as "modern". More recently, increasing support for burial has emerged. This may be partly in response to adverse criticism of the "factory line" process levelled at crematoria. Land is also no longer at a premium for the production of food, and is being "set aside". Further support arises from the potential re-use of graves, which precludes the creation of sprawling, derelict, Victorian type cemeteries.
The Environmental Protection Act 1990 required that all cremators had to comply with specified emission requirements by 1998. Consequently, a massive cremator re-placement programme took place, which has greatly increased the cost of cremation.
The latest cremators are computerized and optimized for efficiency and emissions reduction. Potentially toxic substances such as radioactive isotopes used to treat some forms of cancer as well as other materials are removed from bodies before processing. Residual metals from hip replacements are also separated and potentially recycled. In a traditional burial, these items might not be typically removed.
A statistic said cremation is equivalent to a 700 km car journey .