Future Options For Funerals: Terramation

Freeman Brothers is an independent funeral director based in West Sussex. The business was first established in 1855, and has offices in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint. The company has always been keen to offer high levels of customer service, as well as providing information free of charge to members of the public. This week, […]

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Freeman Brothers - to live in hearts

Freeman Brothers is an independent funeral director based in West Sussex. The business was first established in 1855, and has offices in Billingshurst, Crawley, Horsham and Hurstpierpoint. The company has always been keen to offer high levels of customer service, as well as providing information free of charge to members of the public. This week, Becky blogs on news from the US involving choices which can be made regarding funerals…

I’ve blogged previously on alternative and developing methods of disposal of human remains, a topic it’s time to discuss again. When cremation originally became an option in the UK, it was due to the rapidly decreasing amount of burial space available, and the fact that, in some urban areas, burial was proving to be a contamination risk.

Whilst burial space remains an issue in some countries, new methods are also being developed in response to people expressing an interest in having more choice. Much of this is linked to a desire to have more eco-friendly options available. Whilst no alternatives to burial or cremation are currently possible in the UK, several have been adopted internationally, and groups here at home are pushing for change, so we may see that there are other options in the near future.

The reason for the topic re-emerging currently is that New York state has recently become the sixth US state since 2019 to legalise human composting – officially known as terramation. This method first caught the public’s attention when actor, Luke Perry, was revealed to have chosen something similar when he died in 2019 – he was buried in a ‘mushroom suit’, which is designed to promote safe and efficient decomposition, in order to be more environmentally friendly than a coffin burial.

Whilst cremation involves the use of non-renewable energy, options such as terramation, aquamation (also known as alkaline hydrolysis, or the brand name of Resomation) and cryomation (which involves freezing the Deceased person, then shaking the remains into a fine dust-like substance) are able to use renewable energy sources or methods which require less energy. Disposal methods will always come with a by-product: for terramation, the result is soil, which can be safely used in a domestic setting if so desired, in a similar way to which we often choose to scatter or inter cremated remains.

Something that we often find at Freeman Brothers is that people feel a strong positive or negative response to the currently-available methods of burial and cremation. During my time at the company, many members of the public have clearly said things such as, ‘I can’t bear the thought of being buried as I don’t like worms’, and, ‘I’m frightened of the idea of my body being burned’. Whilst I always take care to reassure people that there is no way that the oft-used film and TV plot of being buried or burned alive cannot come to pass in the contemporary real world, they still tend to maintain their stance, which is fine, as there is choice available!

We at Freeman Brothers are hoping to see some of the above methods become available in the UK in future, and it’s one of the reasons that we recommend regularly updating your loved ones regarding your funeral wishes. For instance, my own wish currently would be to be cremated, but if another, more eco-friendly option were to be available, I would gladly consider it. If you are looking for the best available choice at the moment, it’s likely to be a natural burial, which involves choosing a fully-biodegradable coffin or shroud, and being buried within a natural burial ground, allowing for the fastest possible decomposition process and no return visits to the exact burial site.

Should any further options become available, we will endeavour to update our services as soon as possible. To make a record of your current funeral wishes, you can use our free leaflet.

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Written by Becky Hughes

Community Co-Ordinator

January 25, 2023

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