Direct Cremate

How Countries Are Getting Around Lack of Burial Space

Selling burial spaces for a premium may slow down the demand, but other solutions are being used to make sure people have a final resting place in the decades to come.
How Countries Are Getting Around Lack of Burial Space
Back of Gravestones in a Old Cemetery during Cold day of Autumn

Around the globe populations are growing, but land for burials is decreasing. A few years ago Forbes reported on how urban cemeteries in the U.S. were beginning to feel the strain as more Baby Boomers entered their senior years. But the lengths that U.S. cemeteries are going to in order to solve the traditional burial plot problem pales in comparison to other countries. 

U.S. Cemeteries Rip Up Sidewalks and Squeeze in Extra Plots 

Big cities in the U.S. are already running short on space for housing and commercial development so there aren’t plans to expand land for cemeteries. That means some cemeteries are having to get creative to continue offering burial sites. 

For example, in Brooklyn, cemeteries are ripping out the asphalt sidewalks in an effort to free up space for burial sites. You’re also likely to see less green space in cemeteries in the coming years. Some cemeteries are now selling the spaces between existing graves, effectively butting plots up right next to each other. 

China Enlists Celebrities to Promote Cremation

Instead of trying to maximize burial space, China is taking a different approach. There officials have recruited celebrities to promote the idea of getting cremated rather than buried. Ironically, celebrities are among the small percentage of people who afford a pricey burial plot in Hong Kong

In the city a burial plot costs $405,000 or more, but spaces even at that price don’t become available very often. That means per square foot burial plots are more expensive than even the most luxurious homes. It comes as no surprise that 90% of people in Hong Kong are cremated. However, because of tradition, it’s customary to put cremated remains in a columbarium. Now many columbariums are running out of space and charging up to $243,000 for premium niches that don’t require a wait – which can be up to four years in a public columbarium. 

Singapore Replaces Family Tombs With Columbariums

In Singapore the government is going to the extreme to make space for cremated remains. The government began tearing down family tombs to make space for columbariums that can accommodate dozens of urns. 

If someone is buried in Singapore it won’t be for long. Rules dictate that after 15 years the remains are exhumed and cremated so that another person can be buried in the grave. 

Reusing Burial Plots in Britain

Another country thousands of miles from Singapore has started the practice of reusing existing burial plots. As of 2016, the City of London Cemetery has reused over 1,500 graves. But they aren’t taking out any remains. Instead, they are digging the plot deeper so that the original casket remains in place but sinks lower to make room for another casket on top.

There are a few rules so that the practice is sensitive to the family members of the deceased. For instance, only plots that are at least 75 years old can be reused. Before the plot is reused a notice is posted on the headstone and in local papers to make the public aware. If there are any objections to the reuse of the plot, then the plot isn’t reused. 

Japan Adopts the Concept of Burial Trees

Here in the U.S. more and more people are choosing cremation because they want their remains to be used to plant a tree. In Japan this has been a common practice for a few decades.

The island nation recognized the burial land shortage back in the 1970s. Since then a few solutions have been suggested to promote cremation without running into the columbarium shortage that’s now happening in Hong Kong. One popular choice is tree burials in woodlands near temples. Once the cremains are buried a tree is planted as a natural marker. That way the family still has a place to come and perform Buddhist rituals or simply visit the site.

With each passing year it becomes clear that traditional burials are not sustainable in many areas, especially heavily populated cities. As burial land becomes more scarce, more people are expanding their final resting place options by choosing cremation.

When you choose to work with Direct Cremate, families don’t have to worry about dwindling burial plots that are getting more expensive. Our highly affordable cremation services allow families to scatter the remains, bury the cremains, store them at a columbarium or keep the cremated remains at home for no additional cost.