The future of funerals: what might we see soon?

Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint. Much has changed regarding funerals since Freeman Brothers began and today, Becky considers some potentially imminent developments for the […]

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Freeman Brothers was first established as a funeral director in Horsham, West Sussex, in 1855. The company remains independent and family-run, and now has a further three offices across the county in Billingshurst, Crawley and Hurstpierpoint. Much has changed regarding funerals since Freeman Brothers began and today, Becky considers some potentially imminent developments for the industry…

In 2024, with climate change continuing to be a pressing issue, many organisations are seeking ways to change human behaviour in order to protect the future of the planet. It isn’t the first time in history that the environment has contributed to market forces within the UK funeral industry: cremation was first introduced as a solution to the issue of various areas rapidly running out of safe burial space, and a little less than 200 years later, we find ourselves in the position of needing to consider further options once again.

Burial and cremation are currently the only recognised options for disposal of human remains in England and Wales. There are pros and cons to both environmentally speaking and, there are also various other reasons for which people may accept or reject these options. So as well as the climate being a factor, so is consumer choice. Other options are already available in some countries, and may be possible in the UK in future.

Resomation
One of the best-known options is Resomation (which is a brand name) – sometimes referred to as alkaline hydrolysis, or ‘water cremation’. Based on information that is publicly available, this seems to be the method likeliest to become available in the UK soonest. In 2023, Co-Op Funeralcare announced that it had achieved approval for the use of a Resomator, and that it hoped to offer this service by the end of the year. Unfortunately, there has been no further news on the topic at the time of writing, however the fact that this information was readily released is encouraging.

Resomation has been in use in several other countries for a few years and, notably, Desmond Tutu had stated his wish to be Resomated upon his death, which happened in 2021. The resultant product of alkaline hydrolysis is a drinkable fluid, so next of kin are still able to receive what is effectively remains which can be used.

Terramation
Another method which gained attention due to a celebrity’s choice is terramation, more commonly known as human composting. There are a few different varieties, but all involve a chamber which effectively speeds up the decomposition of the body in a safe environment, ensuring that no ground is disrupted or contaminated by the breakdown of the human remains. This is one of the key criteria for how Deceased persons are handled – that it occurs without disruption to or contamination of such things as public waterways.

The actor, Luke Perry, died in 2019 and had previously informed his relations that he wished for his remains to be composted in the event of his death, and this option was legally available as he was buried on his family’s farm in Tennessee.

Cryomation
Whilst this is something that I have known about for several years, I cannot yet find anywhere that it’s legally available. However, this method has received research and development funding, and has undergone testing. The process would work by a body being frozen via liquid nitrogen, and then shaken to create a form of dust remains, similar to that which results from a traditional flame-powered cremation. This would theoretically mean that friends and family members could have keepsakes similar to those which are created using cremated remains – artwork, jewellery or other items, or that the remains could simply be scattered.

What next for funerals?
Whilst the above are a few options which we are currently aware of, there could also be other developments! We suspect that little will change in the near future, but Freeman Brothers has a strong history of wanting to put customers first, and what you can be assured of is that, should there be a positive development which our customers wish to see us make, we will take steps to ensure that we are able to support them with their wishes.

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Written by Becky Hughes

Community Co-Ordinator

May 15, 2024

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