Cardboard coffins for 'green' burials: Environmentally-friendly caskets required for place in cemetery doubling as wildlife sanctuary

THERE ARE enough people living in one, so perhaps it was predictable that people would eventually choose to be buried in a cardboard box. Brighton council has taken the initiative by offering its most environmentally conscientious citizens a biodegradable coffin, writes Tim Kelsey.

The brochure calls this a 'return to nature'. It is a 'strong, lightweight casket with woodgrain and water-resistant finish, manufactured from corrugated cardboard'. It comes as a flatpack but can be simply assembled by a relative or the undertaker. The borough took delivery of its first coffins late last week.

Only if the deceased has a biodegradable coffin (or a soundly-sourced wooden one) will access be granted to a new natural cemetery run by the council, intended to become a wildlife sanctuary among the graves. Once a coffin has been covered, and the soil and chalk have settled, grass and wildflower seeds are scattered and, eventually, a tree is planted on the grave.

In its brochure, the council warns: 'Woodland burial is not for people who require a neat and tidy grave with its traditional headstone. It will be chosen by those who love birds and wildlife.' And also those without big savings. The new coffins cost pounds 50.

But the cardboard coffins are not altogether green. The bolts that hold them together are plastic. 'It is hoped,' the brochure laments, 'that if demand is great enough, a manufacturer can be persuaded to produce them with an additive to make them (the bolts) biodegradable.'

(Photograph omitted)