Are Human Ashes Bad for the Environment?

With cremation rates rising to 53.1% in the US, people have strong concerns about the effect on the environment.

Cremation is a less expensive choice when compared to burial. An urn takes up less space than a full casket when buried.

Let’s discuss the pros and cons of cremation. Continue to read, and you will be able to make an educated decision on cremation or burial.

Are Human Ashes Bad for the Environment?

Human ashes are also called cremated remains or sometimes cremains. Are they good for the environment? The short answer is no - they are not.

The pH balance of cremains is very high, meaning they are alkaline or basic. The cremains also contain a high amount of salt, and this can be toxic to plants. Many other naturally occurring substances have high pH levels, so this in itself does not mean the remains are bad for the environment.

Even a small amount of human cremains mixed into the soil shouldn’t be harmful to plants.

You can buy biodegradable urns that have a special blend of soil. This unique blend, when mixed with cremated remains, is a healthy blend for plants. Here at Urns Northwest, we offer this mixture in an urn to grow a memorial tree from ashes.

Are Human Ashes Bad for the Ocean?

Human ashes do not dissolve in the ocean's waters. However, being a coarse, gritty, sand-like substance, the ashes will scatter throughout the ocean with no negative effects.

The EPA allows for cremated remains to be spread in the sea. You simply must take the cremains at least three nautical miles off the coast before scattering.

You can buy biodegradable urns that will dissolve and spread the ashes, or you can simply scatter them.

Cremains contain harmless minerals as far as the ocean is concerned. The human ashes are mostly dry calcium phosphates. They cause no harm to the waters or ocean life.

Is it Bad to Bury or Scatter Ashes?

It is not wrong to bury or to scatter. It is merely a personal choice. When you choose cremation, there are many alternatives for the disposition of the cremains.

You can:

Is Cremation Bad for the Environment?

So we've established that ashes are not bad for the environment. But what about the cremation process?

The most significant environmental concerns with cremation are the amount of energy used and the greenhouse gases produced while the body is being cremated.

Cremation releases noxious gases into the air. The by-products include fine soot, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, mercury from dental fillings, and heavy metals. Sulfur and most carbon are released as oxidized gases during the process. According to some research, these chemicals can cause damage to the environment and human health.

Crematoriums use natural gas, causing greenhouse effects on the environment. Over the years, more fuel-efficient crematories have been built. These newer models have reduced the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.

Green Burial

Cremation is not as environmentally damaging as a full casket burial; however, it is still not the most eco-friendly alternative. There is no such thing as a totally “green” cremation. At least not yet!

Most people don’t base their end of life decisions solely on how it will affect the environment. But it is an important aspect of your final arrangements, so it is excellent for you to do your research.

Cremation is a popular alternative to burial. But it can still cause an impact on the earth.

“Green burial” is now encouraged as the most eco-friendly option to traditional burial and cremation. This is where the body is not embalmed, but instead buried directly into the ground in a cloth burial shroud, an eco-friendly casket woven from seagrass or willow, or a simple pine wood casket.

Eco-Friendly Urns

We hope you found this article helpful and informative! For environmentally-conscious options for cremation, browse our collection of eco-friendly urns and memorials.