Recycling Graves – What’s Old is New Again!

by P-Francone

Even though 70-80% of the dead in the UK are cremated, overcrowding is a problem in many countries in addition to the UK.

At The City of London Cemetery and Crematorium, they reuse old graves.

Hundreds of families have been asked recently if they wouldn’t mind if grave plots from relatives, who had died more than 75 years ago, could be reused. The plan is that after 75 years the remains would be dug up and reburied deeper, allowing more remains to be buried above them.

The headstones are carved with different memorials on them, including one which has one set of names from 1902 and 1908 on the original side, and a fresh name on the other.

Space in burial yards is becoming a critical problem in the UK, especially in Greater London, where eight boroughs are completely full, with no new greenfield space left and ten are at a critical level, and expected to be filled up in 10 years. Some cemeteries have been ‘cramming’ in graves, where they remove decorative plants or pathways to fit in more graves. Despite the space crisis being most acute in London, and the rules changing in 2007 to allow it, no graveyards there have began stacking graves yet, as none of them want to be the first one to do it.

“Everyone is waiting for someone else to do it,” Gary Burks of the City of London Cemetery says. “Nobody wants to be the one in front of the camera when it happens. We are all risk averse.”

In the Victorian days of England, it was a common practice to stack graves, reusing plots after 100 years. The practice is common in certain other countries, and was done in the UK up until the 1850s. The Jewish community has serious concerns about the re-use of graves, and the Muslim Council of Scotland says that they believe that the re-use of graves is acceptable “only if necessary.” The Church of England and the Church of Scotland have both backed the plan to re-use grave plots.

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