Independent Funeral Directors covering Chelmsford and Essex
Ashes Storage Survey

Ashes Storage Survey

36% say that consider using a biodegradable urn that nurtures new tree life.

A new survey of adults across Britain has revealed that 46% of people have, or know someone who has held on to a loved one or pet’s ashes. The reasons for holding on to ashes include waiting to be reunited with another family member or pet (11%), and simply not knowing what to do with them (15%). Family feuds were another reason preventing a loved one being laid to rest (3%).

The survey, conducted by YouGov on behalf of Secure Haven, an Essex-based firm which provides storage facilities for beloved ashes, found that people store ashes at home in cupboards, under beds and even behind sofas. It also reveals that 36% of people questioned across Britain would bury, or would consider burying, their loved one’s remains in an urn which uses ashes to grow a memorial tree, perhaps illustrating a growing trend for environmentally-friendly and ecologically sound burial options. The figures show that a memorial tree urn for family members is most popular among young people aged between 18 and 24 (39%).

Cheryl Yarwood, director of Secure Haven, commented on the results of the survey:

People do seem to be holding on to their loved one’s cremated remains for lengthy periods, often in the home or garden. The survey results show that family disagreements are playing a part in this, but also that many people really don’t know what to do with them.

People find it difficult to know what to do with cremated remains especially when they have a real, and often unexpected, sense of attachment to them – which is entirely normal. The problem is that bereavement and managing a funeral can place huge emotional demands on families after an already difficult time of loss. We generally live in a culture where there are no common traditions about grief and mourning. As a result, in some instances, lack of respectful storage of ashes can have a real effect on other family members.

Some 21% of those surveyed have, or know someone who has, held onto ashes because they wanted to keep their loved one or pet with them, while 15% said they didn’t know what to do with the remains and 11% kept them so they could be buried with another family member or pet. A further 3% said they held on to a loved one’s ashes because different family opinions made it impossible to agree what to do with them.

In terms of storing the ashes, 20% of those respondents questioned said the ashes had been left on a side board at home, with 19% admitting to storing them in a cupboard and 17% on a mantel piece. A further 3% of people said they left the ashes in a garage, 2% admitted they left the remains under a bed and the same number again said they left ashes under the stairs, and 1% confessed to leaving them behind a sofa.

Cheryl commented:

People are often very disconcerted at a time when family or a close friend passes away and really don’t know the right thing to do.

For example, some people feel pressurised to put the ashes into the ground too quickly without realising that it is difficult and costly to exhume and place cremated ashes elsewhere if mistakes are made. And we find that leaving ashes lying around leads to guilt and anxiety for members of a family, prolonging the final journey to find that ‘place’ to lay to rest.

The report also suggests that people are perhaps becoming more environmentally-conscious when considering burying the cremated remains of a loved one. For example, 36% of people questioned said they have or would consider burying ashes in a biodegradable urn that grows the growth of a memorial tree. The figures show that this option is favoured particularly by younger people. Of those questioned, 39% of people aged between 18 and 24, 41% of people aged between 25 and 34, and 42% of people between 35 and 44 chose the memorial tree urn. This is compared to 30% of over 55s.

A further 25% opted for biodegradable urns, which break down over time. Again this proved popular among younger people with 27% of people aged between 18 and 24 stating they have, or would, consider using biodegradable urns. This compares to 21% of those aged over 55. Water-soluble urns, which dissolve in water after a sea burial, were selected by 14% of people questioned.

More women than men have or would consider storing ashes in jewellery, such as a necklace or cufflinks, with 20% of women and just 11% of men opting to keep beloved ashes in this way.

Cheryl said:

The trend for environmentally-friendly burial options has been emerging from Europe over the last couple of years. It is fascinating to see that people in the UK are increasingly considering the environment when thinking about how to bury the ashes of a loved one.

We have seen a huge rise in the number of people buying memorial tree urns and biodegradable urns over the last few months. Certainly, our biodegradable urns give bereaved families the satisfaction and comfort of watching a new living tree growing from the ashes of someone they loved for future generations to admire – these can, of course, grow and move home with the family.

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov PLC. Total sample size was 2,144 adults, Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd and 24th December 2014. The survey was carried out on-line. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).