Is it better for the environment to be buried or cremated?

Our impact on the planet doesn’t stop when we die.

2nd July 2018
Is it better for the environment to be buried or cremated? © Getty

Asked by: Tony Hersh, Newbury

It takes 285kWh of gas and 15kWh of electricity to cremate a single person. The CO2 this generates is roughly the same as an 800km car journey. Cremation also accounts for 16 per cent of the mercury pollution in the air, from dental fillings. 

But burial pollutes too. Formaldehyde used for embalming, and in the chipboard veneer used in 89 per cent of coffins, eventually leaches into the groundwater. Concrete vaults also take a lot of energy to manufacture. The greenest option is currently to forego embalming of the corpse and opt for a woodland burial in a biodegradable cardboard or wicker coffin.

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