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Environmental comparison of caskets and urns

Environmental comparison of caskets and urns

how sustainable is…

The following is a summary of a study which compares the environmental impact of:

  • caskets for burials made from wood (pine) vs caskets made from MDF
  • caskets for cremations made from plywood vs caskets made from MDF
  • urns made from wood vs plastic urns.

The study, which is based on New Zealand conditions, includes the manufacturing of the items and their use and disposal: for the caskets, they are either assumed to remain in the ground (burial) or to be cremated. For the urns, it assumes that they are deposited at a landfill after use. Importantly, the study assumes that the wood for the MDF caskets and wooden caskets was grown locally, i.e. in New Zealand whereas it assumes that the plywood stems from Chile and is transported to New Zealand for manufacturing.

The environmental impact categories considered by the study are:

In terms of burial caskets, the study finds that a wooden casket has a lower impact on the environment than an MDF casket in all of the above impact categories (it also considers the impact of interior materials such as linings – refer link to full report below).

A comparison of the plywood and the MDF caskets for cremation shows that the plywood casket has a lower energy demand and global warming potential. And if transport (in this case from Chile to New Zealand) was not necessary, i.e. because the plywood was grown and produced locally, it would also perform better in all of the other environmental impact categories. However, as the study is based on imported plywood, the MDF casket has a lower impact on the environment than the plywood casket in the other impact categories.

Finally, the wooden urn performs better than the plastic urn in all of the environmental impact categories considered.

Link to full report

While we make every effort to be accurate, we do not claim that this summary is representative. Please refer to our Legal Disclaimer for details.

what can I do to reduce my environmental footprint?

The above study is based in New Zealand and refers to specific products and materials. However, it would appear that if you want to minimise the impact on the environment associated with the use of a casket or an urn, depending on what products are available in your area, look for a casket or an urn made from locally grown wood. And if you can choose between locally produced plywood and MDF, plywood is the better choice from an environmental perspective.

Report Rating: 3 of 3

Report Published: 2015

Country: New Zealand

Author(s): Tobias Zoellner, Fabian Loske, thinkstep

Publisher: unpublished (report received courtesy of Return to Sender Caskets Ltd)

Funder: Return to Sender Caskets Ltd

Keywords:  environmental impact, sustainability, funeral, wood, pine, plywood, MDF, burial, cremation, casket, urn

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