The world is running out of room for the dead With limited space underground, people are opting for alternative burials and ways to maximize space


Cremation- the disposal of a dead person's body by burning it to ashes, typically after a funeral ceremony.

Vaults- a container, formerly made of wood or brick but more often today made of concrete, that encloses a coffin to help prevent a grave from sinking.

Shroud- a length of cloth or an enveloping garment in which a dead person is wrapped for burial.

Eco Friendly - not harmful to the environment.

Rezoning- assign (land or property) to a different planning zone.

Sprawl-spread out over a large area in an untidy or irregular way.

How long until there is gonna be little to no place to bury at all?

Hundreds of years ago, especially during times of large amounts of death, cemeteries appeared more and more around the world. These now cemeteries are getting to their maximum capacity and will run out of room in the near future, but when? According to Nicole Hanson, a cultural planner who specializes in cemetery urbanism stated “Death is now a equity issue for those in the GTA and Toronto. We are going to be out of space in five to 10 years.” All over the globe cemeteries will run out of room in little to no time. In New York City, the cemeteries fill up very quickly inside the city. Richard Moylan, president of a 478-acre Green Wood Cemetery explains “We expect to be out of new in-ground space in five years.” With so many people dying each year in a large populated city, space is very limited, and pricey. Limited space means cemeteries are using different type of measures to use the space they have available to the fullest.

What can cemeteries due in order to use their remaining space to maximum potential?

With a limited amount of space to use in order to bury the dead, some cemeteries have come up with solutions to use the space to its maximum potential. Christine Wallgren from the Boston Globe shares a story of a town in Canada and how they will rezone their small amount of space. “In Halifax, the town's cemetery superintendent and highway surveyor, Ralph Hayward, solved the space shortage in Central Cemetery three years ago by installing 290 double-depth vaults that allow two caskets to be stacked in a single grave. This cemetery is digging deeper in order to stack two caskets on top of each other, to help slow the progressing issue of no room. There are examples of plans that are being thought out in Jerusalem, in order to be able to bury people due to their religious requirements. These cemeteries are going to be digging burial plots 22 stories down. This solution will allow less space to be used per burial and people to be able to be buried due to their religious priorities. This is a way to maximize the potential space of a cemetery, but many wonder what can you do with the graves already used?

Can you reuse graves?

Some cemeteries have the ability to dig deeper and deeper and maximize their space, but many cemeteries have already run completely out, so what shall do? In Britain it has come to the point in which reusing graves is a priority in order to keep the beautifulness of the trees and roads the cemetery is made of. Gary Burks, the superintendent in charge of the cemetery, states “Before the cemetery re-uses any of its graves, it has to announce that it is doing so, with public notices in the cemetery and adverts in papers. It tries to contact the families of those buried there, who have the right to veto any re-use for a generation. Recently, the cemetery claimed 200 graves for re-use.” This allows the families to keep their members graves undisturbed, or available for reuse. Livescience Owen Jarus describes reusing graves in Medial Ages, “During the Middle age times, the thought of reuse was apparent. Grave diggers who came by old bones would put them in a bone house in order to reuse the churches grave sites”. This concept of reuse has been thought out through centuries of time. Since space is so limited even with space being used to the fullest and reusing graves, people are opting for alternative ways to be buried.

What are alternative burial options?

Since lack of space for full body burials, people are using alternatives in order to dispose of their body, the way they want. Stephanie Pappas an writer and researcher for live science, speaks about many types of burials offered to the people of the world on the list is natural burial, “ Bodies are wrapped in a shroud or placed in a biodegradable casket, the idea being that they will decompose naturally. People want to be eco-friendly and on top of where their body is laid into the ground (2-4 feet deep) a tree is planted. Along with a natural burial there are regular cremations people participate in. According to the Cremation Association of America, “In 2015, the US cremation rate was 48.6%. By 2020, the US cremation rate is projected to reach 54.3%.” People are heading towards cremation due to limited space for burials below the ground. There are many ways to be put to rest, but how much does this all cost.

What are the costs of alternative types of burials?

Dying does come with a price, sometimes a hefty one. National Geographic writer, Lori Valigra speaks of the cost of a normal burial in the ground, “ conventional funeral—including the embalming process and a metal casket—can average $6,500 (U.S.), plus another $2,000 for cemetery charges.” Being buried in the ground is an expensive way to be put to rest. According to the Cremation Research Council, the average cost of a direct cremation is $1,100. Cremation is a cheaper way to be buried, and easier with the limited number of spaces available. Death is inevitable, and with space limited, prices rising, and the way you want to be put to rest all in mind, people are having trouble deciding how they want to leave this world.


Created with images by NatalieMaynor - "Interesting Grave" • pixel2013 - "cemetery crypt sepulchre" • 66283 - "cemetery jewish jewish cemetery" • Moorelka - "cemetery all souls' day statues" • MichaelGaida - "tombstone grave cemetery" • Ken and Nyetta - "Ottoman-era Grave Markers from the Agora of Smyrna"

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.