What's the difference?

Last updated 12:20 30/05/2012

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Eco-caskets: Also known as environmentally friendly coffins:

An eco-casket is similar to a regular coffin – made from wood, similar shape, closed lid, and handles – but the way it is made is different.

Coffin maker Windsor Industries, in Pahiatua, makes and distributes eco-caskets to hundreds of funeral homes in the North Island. It also makes hundreds of other standard coffins – made for all shapes and using different types of wood.

Co-owners Bernard Bellamy and Craig McKenna say the demand for environmentally friendly coffins began about 1 1/2 years ago.

"The difference is in the manufacturing," Bellamy says.

"It's about using the least amount of resources to make it. The less you use, the better for the environment it is."

Windsor eco-caskets are made from untreated pine, sourced from Wairarapa, and use biodegradable glue, copper nails and steel bolts. Stainless steel bolts can't be used as they do not break down in the ground – only corrode.

Bellamy says the process of making an eco-casket is faster than a standard coffin, which requires more labour and resources.

"It's weeks [to make], as opposed to hours. We sometimes get an order in the morning for a casket [eco] and it will be done by the afternoon. We've been making these ones for about a year and half now but we never called them eco until natural burials came about. They're very popular now."

Bellamy says it is hard to tell whether eco-caskets will continue to be in demand. "It's a fickle industry and things have changed a lot. Many people get eco and economy mixed up. A lot of ecological caskets are very expensive but they are worth it to some people. Who knows whether it will be a fad or not?"

Eco-friendly urns are also available.

Embalming fluids: Embalming is done to preserve, present and sanitise the body ready for a funeral and burial or cremation. About 12 litres of fluid is used for a standard-size human – 80 kilograms to 100kg. People weigh more when they die. The process takes place in a sterile room using an embalming pump machine and surgical tools. The common embalming fluid used is formaldehyde. It is injected into the arteries and helps to prevent the body from decomposing. It does eventually disintegrate in the ground.

The environmentally friendly version is injected in the same way but is made from non-toxic biodegradable organic compounds. It does not preserve the body for as long as the common fluid does.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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