As cremations have increased in popularity over the last few decades, the number of crematoriums around the country has increased to meet the growing demand: as many as 70 percent of individuals choose cremation in some states.
Funeral homes have attached crematoriums in order to provide on-site cremations for their clients and funeral directors have sought to expand their businesses by building crematoriums in other locations. However, crematoriums have faced legal battles across the country, as local voters concerned with traffic and environmental concerns block some crematoriums from expanding into their neighborhoods.
Cremation industry experts are worried that the limited number of crematoriums won’t be able to accommodate the vast number of people seeking the service, with 49 percent of North America projected to choose cremation in 2017. Barbara Kemmis, executive director of the Cremation Association of North America, described the problem to the Philadelphia Inquirer thusly:
“If we don’t address the capacity issue and increase the number of crematories, it could take up to two weeks to cremate someone in 2040.”
Currently, cremation is handled over a few days and the actual process takes only two hours to complete. Local residents have cited environmental concerns, specifically mercury emissions, as a factor in barring the crematoriums. Individual states enforce restrictions on cremation emissions, with many following recommendations made by the EPA.
Voters blocking crematorium expansion have endeavored to keep crematoriums a safe distance away from residential areas, while funeral homes seek the means to keep up with the current demand for cremation. Some funeral directors have met with local residents and cemetery neighbors to get their input on proposed plans for new crematoriums.
Cemeteries across North America are already overcrowded with in-ground burials, and soon crematoriums may become just as overcrowded. Hopefully, funeral homes and local residents can work together to serve the current demand for cremation while respecting the wishes of the community.