Consider greener alternatives to burial, cremation

The report about the new sea burial facility shows that the National Environment Agency (NEA) is seriously responding to the needs of our population (Sea burial facility to be built at Tanah Merah; April 6).

Burial and cremation are the usual methods of corpse disposal, but both have drawbacks in terms of cost and the effects on the environment.

Today, many people are looking for alternative solutions.

Perhaps the NEA could consider some options that do not harm the environment.

In promession, the corpse is cryogenically frozen using liquid nitrogen. A mechanical device vibrates the body, which disintegrates in minutes, after which the material is freeze-dried. This reduces the weight of the remains to 30 per cent of the original mass.

Metals - like that used in tooth fillings - are then removed and returned to the family, while the rest of the remains are placed in a biodegradable casket.

"Eternal reefs" are another option, in which human remains are added to reef balls that are used to build coral reefs.

Reef balls are made from pH-neutral concrete and are round, hollow and perforated to allow water and marine life to go through them. The balls are weighted at the bottom to prevent them from being washed away by currents.

Human remains, whether diminished by cremation or promession, can be mixed with the concrete, thus creating a permanent memorial.

Creating a healthy and sustainable marine environment this way is a nice tribute to a loved one who has died.

Regarding the planned Tanah Merah facility, I hope the NEA will introduce rules on how it should be used.

Anglers and picnickers should be banned from the boardwalk as I have seen fishing hooks, lines and dead fish left at many fishing jetties. The boardwalk should be kept clean so that the deceased can be sent off in a respectful manner.

Heng Cho Choon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2018, with the headline 'Consider greener alternatives to burial, cremation'. Print Edition | Subscribe