Scarce Cemetery Spaces Prompt Price Increases; Urban Planners Developing New Ways To Dispose Corpses

Image credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Image credit: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

This is one of those problems you don’t think about until it becomes a problem, if that makes any sense.

Urban planners all over the globe are brainstorming ways to dispose of human remains now that cemetery spaces and prices are creating problems for major cities. In places like New York and London, the living compete with the dead for land and in Japan, where mostly everyone gets cremated, spaces for urns are running low.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral in the U.S. rose from $700 in 1960 to $7,000 in 2012. An increase in costs and shifts in cultural and religious beliefs is believed to have an impact on how popular cremation will become in the future. In 1960, less than 4 percent of Americans chose cremation and in 2012, that number was 43 percent. In London the number rises to 70 percent, while in Tokyo there is pretty much no other way to dispose of remains. 

About 1,000 people die in New York every week and Manhattan is running out of room for them. In Brooklyn, prices for burial plots for the dead and apartment prices for the living are at record highs. Let’s take a look at how other cities are coping with this problem and alternatives that are currently in the works.


Green Burials
Green burials are becoming more and more attractive to eco-friendly big city residents. This alternative is much cheaper and does not involve embalming or metal caskets. The natural materials used in the burial will later decompose and become part of the Earth again. In Nosund, Sweden a company is developing a a procedure that would freeze-dry bodies using liquid nitrogen and then reduce them to small particles. Unlike cremation, this process eliminates the release of toxins into the air.

Space Savers
In Japan, families can visit a facility using a “smart card” that can be swiped to retrieve ashes from an underground vault. Families sit in a room and using their card, can have the remains delivered to them. A company proposed a floating cemetery on the South China Sea.

Digging Up Old Graves
London passed a law in 2007 that allows authorities to dig up graves that are at least 75 years old to make way for new ones. The issue is that authorities have been reluctant to use their power, according to studies done by the University of York’s Cemetery Research Group.

Share your thoughts about the land crisis for funeral directors below.

Source: Yahoo! Finance

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