Making the decisions and weighing up the pros and cons of cremation or burial can be overwhelming, particularly at a time you are grieving. However, it’s so important to make an informed choice about the funeral service option that’s most appropriate for your loved one and their family – or yourself if you are preplanning your funeral.
The choice between cremation or burial is a matter of personal preference. It is generally guided by considerations including the cost of a funeral, environmental impact, practicality and religion. We’ll explain these in this article, along with the pros and cons of cremations or burials.
Cost of a funeral
In some areas, burials can be as much as four times more expensive than cremations, due to the land required and the cost of cemetery maintenance. The average cost of a burial in Australia is $19,000 according to funeral price comparison website gatheredhere.com.au. The price of a coffin ranges from $800 to $10,000, and a headstone alone averages at $3,500. So the cost of a burial can quickly add up.
Consequently, terms of grave interments are only for 25 or 50 years in some Australian states. This means that a family member will be given the opportunity to renew the licence for a further term – at a cost. In contrast, cremations do not carry the same level of cost, and so they are much more economically accessible for many families.
The average price of a traditional cremation in Australia is around $7,400 according to Gathered Here. However, a cremation can end up costing thousands more depending on the personalisation of the ceremony and choice of coffin.
A private, unattended funeral – also known as a direct cremation – is the most affordable option. The average cost of a direct cremation in Australia is $4,000, according to finder.com.au. Prices remain lower than a traditional cremation or burial service because there is no need for a chapel, celebrant, flowers, or other additions to the funeral service. Families will often hold their own celebration of life after the direct cremation has taken place, to honour their loved one.
The average cost of a Bare Cremation is about $2,000, however, prices vary depending on the location and local operating costs. To get a quote for your area, visit the Bare Cremation website here.
Practicality of cremation vs burial
Cremations generally come with more flexibility than burials. A cremation allows loved ones the time to plan a memorial or ashes scattering when they are ready, and at any location they determine to be most fitting to the person remembered.
Ashes may be scattered, buried, planted into a tree, made into jewellery, or even added to fireworks. They may even be split and kept at separate homes for practical reasons. For some memorial ideas with ashes, read our article here.
On the other hand, burials are usually held in the days after the person died and the funeral usually takes place in a cemetery, often with a church or chapel ceremony beforehand.
The ecological impact of death is becoming more of a consideration as more people understand the need to conserve nature for generations to come.
While cremation creates about four times as much carbon dioxide than a burial, the process actually has a lower carbon footprint than burials due to cemetery maintenance including watering and fertilisation, according to Gatheredhere.com.au. It is estimated that cremations are anywhere between 10-50 per cent better for the environment due to the associated impacts of burial.
The sheer amount of wood needed to create coffins every year is staggering, with more than 1.6 million hectares of forest cut down for this each year. The manufacturing process of coffin production also brings pollution. In recent years, cardboard coffins have become an eco-friendly alternative designed for cremation.
Embalming fluid is another factor when it comes to pollution. When the chemicals are buried in the ground they don’t just disappear – they gradually work their way into the soil and underground waterways. An average 4 hectare cemetery holds enough embalming fluid to fill a small swimming pool, according to the Smithsonian Magazine.
Land is becoming less available and more expensive, especially in metropolitan areas, placing increasing limitations on burials as an option. For example, in Sydney, the cost of a cemetery plot has doubled over the past five years. At Waverley Cemetery, the cost of a lawn grave starts at $21,200 and rises to $52,000 for more elaborate options.
Religion’s impact on funerals
Hindus and Buddhists choose cremations over burial, as they believe a burial prevents the soul from being reincarnated. In contrast, cremations are forbidden in the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as in Islam, Judaism and in some Christian churches.
While religion was once a major influence on the rituals of death in Australia, there is a gradual move away from traditionalism in modern culture. As the nation shifts toward secularism, Aussies are now choosing new traditions in place of rituals that have long-stemmed from religion. So when it comes to death, many families are choosing cremation over the traditional burial for practical and affordability reasons.
Final thoughts on burial vs cremation
Australian funeral trends are changing. Cremations have overtaken burials in Australia, accounting for about 75% of deaths. And the rate is increasing by an estimated half a per cent each year. Even before COVID-19’s funeral restrictions, 22% of those were direct cremations without an accompanying funeral service.
People today are well informed, price-conscious, non-traditional and more aware of their environmental footprint. So, more than ever, many are saying farewell to traditional funerals and, by extension, burials. There are a number of influences behind that trend.
The choice between a burial or cremation is a personal one. If you are an Executor or Next of Kin arranging a funereal for a loved one, you may be guided by a discussion you had with the deceased person about their end-of-life wishes. In addition, your decision will be made easier if your loved one was organised with estate planning and set out their funeral wishes while making a Will.
Or perhaps you may be weighing up between a cremation or burial if you are estate planning and want to make your funeral plans known while making your Will. If that’s the case, you might also consider preplanning your funeral with Bare Cremation, to take the future stress off your family.
If you have any further questions or to get a quote for cremation, visit the Bare Cremation website, or you can give us a call. For an imminent or immediate funeral service, please call 1800 071 171. For a prepaid arrangement, please call 1800 202 901.
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