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‘Green burial’: UK may use highways as graveyards

‘Green burial’: UK may use highways as graveyards

The UK could run out of burial plots within five years, estimates warn, while cremation levels may have peaked. Now, one public health expert suggests using highways, cycle paths, and former industrial sites as graveyards.

John Ashton, former president of the Faculty of Public Health, made the rather grim yet practical proposal Thursday in an in-depth examination of what to do with the UK’s deceased.

“You have got 500,000 to 600,000 deaths a year in England and Wales so if everybody who died had a green burial – I am not saying that is going to happen – but if everybody did we could be planting half a million trees a year,” Aston said, in a proposal which could tackle the UK’s corpse surplus while simultaneously improving emissions levels and the wider environment.

“As part of [mitigating] global warming, let’s put the burial situation into the thinking,” he said.

While cremation may seem like an obvious solution, many choose to bury the urns containing their deceased loved ones’ remains, while some religions do not permit cremation. The entire process can also prove resource-intensive. Ashton estimates that roughly 70 percent of the recently deceased UK population is cremated but believes that may be the peak.

As graveyards and crematoria are almost at capacity across Britain, Ashton also discussed human composting in which corpses are placed in reusable steel ‘coffins’ together with wood chips, straw and other compostable material (once artificial limbs etc. have been removed).

Using this process, it takes roughly 30 days to break down a body into mulch that can be used to grow trees or vegetables. The bodies would not be embalmed to prevent environmental damage and there would be limitations on headstones and other place markers.

While he advocates the creation of new woodlands and green spaces the length and breadth of the country which could, in turn, beautify the country’s roadsides in a rather poignant way, he admits that the idea of human composting may not appeal to everyone.

“I don’t think I would personally want to be composted,” he admitted.