In 2021, the United Kingdom’s crematoria produced 1.4 million kilos of ashes. But what actually happens to them?
A lot of people choose to scatter or bury the ashes. But did you know they actually damage the soil? Here is a guest post from our friends at Living Memorial who sell a product that makes it possible to bury ashes safely and sustainably to help the soil.
What Actually Happens when you bury ashes?
The toxicity within cremated remains mainly arises from their very high pH and extremely high levels of sodium (Na). When we bury or scatter cremated remains, they have a lasting impact on that area, and it’s not a good one. You may have wondered why you can no longer scatter ashes over football grounds or historic sites and places of outstanding beauty like Ben Nevis? Or why crematoria replace their flower beds so often?
When cremated remains come into contact with water the negative impacts are even worse. Cremation ashes contaminate areas beyond where they are placed – imagine a drop of water on tissue and how it spreads…
Cremated remains don’t degrade and become part of the soil, they stay in the ground for many decades, continuing to contaminate the surrounding area.
Years of research means this process is now well understood. You can find more detailed information about the science from expert Sherry Yarkosky here.
One horrible outcome of planting or scattering a loved one, alongside a favourite tree or special location, is that the damage caused could result in the death of that plant or area.
This can cause the feelings of a second loss. Another bereavement beginning while the first grief is still being processed.
Without knowing what went wrong, we could continue with a new planting and still have the same outcome. Layers of grief that could so easily have been avoided. Memorial plantings are such a good way to retain a living connection to a special person, it’s vital that people are confident their efforts will be successful.
What Can We Do to make bury ashes environmentally friendly?
There are ways to prevent this damage. One would be to keep cremated remains away from nature, using an urn and keeping them indoors. Some people use small amounts to make jewellery or other memorial items.
If adding cremated remains to soil, simple steps can be taken to not only mitigate the negative effects of cremation ashes on the environment, but to turn them into a benefit for soil, plants, and animals alike.
One product allows you to grow trees and plants directly mixed with cremation remains, using the minerals and elements to nourish and grow the chosen tree or plant. Find out more about Living Memorial’s soil blend on their website.