Following the logic of more efficient cremation

Charles 1 Comment

Posted by Charles

An undated document issued by the Institute of Cemetery and Crematorium Management (ICCM) makes clear its policy on the practice of ‘holding over’ – the retention of bodies for up to 72 hours in order to optimise cremators:

5.  Operation of Cremation Equipment

At present cremator operating time in relation to usage of fossil fuel, reduction of harmful emissions and efficiency is overlooked.

It is current practice to pre-heat cremators at the start of each day and cool them down after the last cremation of the day and repeat this process throughout the week. Apart from the excessive use of fossil fuel for daily pre-heating, the risk of emissions of pollutants from the first cremations of each day is increased.

Holding cremations over for a limited period will allow continuity of use with resultant reductions in fuel consumption. Industry codes of practice have attempted to address this situation with the Federation of British Cremation Authorities code stating that the cremation should take place within 24 hours of the funeral service whilst the Institute of Cemetery & Crematorium Management’s Guiding Principles for the Charter for the Bereaved states 72 hours. Despite these codes of practice being in existence very few crematoria hold cremations over for any period. This lack of action by authorities is perpetuating the impact on the environment. [Source]

You’ve got to hand it to the ICCM, it got away with pushing the holding over time from 24hrs to 72hrs with barely a squeak of outrage from the media. Its acceptability to families is now proven – they have to give permission. But we hear of funeral directors so opposed to it that they talk their families out of it.

Once in a while, inevitably, we hear howls of outrage. Here’s a recent howl from Salisbury:

PLANS to refrigerate dead bodies for up to 48 hours before cremating them were approved on Monday despite being branded “morally unacceptable”.

Five councillors on Salisbury City Council’s services committee were outraged by proposals for a cold storage facility to be installed as part of the £2.34million refurbishment of Salisbury’s crematorium. 

Councillors Jo Broom and Brian Dalton said it would be insensitive to bereaved families and cllr Bobbie Chettleburgh said nobody wants to think that their mother is being kept in the freezer “next to the frozen peas”.

This sort of inflammatory imbecility from indigenous community leaders is a common feature of debates about death and funerals. It goes to show just how profoundly ignorant people generally are about such things, especially those who should know better.

There was some good sense uttered at the meeting:

Cllr Frank Pennycook said: “I think we need to remember that bodies are kept in storage after death already – in the hospital morgue and at the undertakers. If I died and my body was the only one at the crematorium that day I’d want them to store it until they had more.”


City clerk Reg Williams said: “By far the most expensive part of the crematorium is firing up the cremators. If we only have one or two a day, that’s an extremely expensive and poor use of them.


The ICCM’s impact-on-the-environment argument is strong. But come on, chaps, 72-hour holding over is a sticking plaster solution to a much more serious problem. Crematoria as they exist in this country will forever be grossly inefficient burners of the dead. If the logic of 72 hours holds, then so does the logic of uncoupling the incinerators and having one incineration facility for several crematoria. If people aren’t bothered by the wait, they are hardy likely to be bothered by a short journey by road.

If the environmental argument is strong – and it is – then it should be pursued to its logical conclusion. 


  1. Charles

    Perhaps a Cllr who thinks that someone’s dead mother would be kept next to frozen peas in a crem cold storage facility should be relieved of his post until the medication has had a chance to do its work…..but at least the proposal was passed. Let’s hope this a sign of increasingly good sense nationwide. Use the heat, minimise the environmental impact, encourage people to hold funeral ceremonies elsewhere than the crem – seems logical. What’s the snag? Let’s check back with Cllrs Broom and Dalton for an informed view.

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