THEY have been used for decades to collect the ashes of our loved ones.
The traditional urn has been the chosen vessel to safely store the treasured remains of family and friends.
But the familiar plastic urn is being scrapped in Southampton to make way for a more environmentally friendly flat-pack cardboard box.
Grieving families across the city will no longer have the ashes of their loved ones returned to them in an urn, as council bosses ditch tradition in favour of going green.
The controversial move has sparked anger among some mourners but Southampton City Council said the switch to the “tastefully designed” eco-urns came after they found themselves lumbered with more and more urns returned to them by families and funeral directors.
The new specially designed biodegradable box is made from renewable resources which can be easily recycled and safely buried in the ground.
Their green credentials are boosted by the fact that 3,000 cardboard units can be delivered in a van, rather than an HGV lorry, which was needed to deliver the same amount of plastic urns. The smaller van gives off fewer emissions, resulting in a reduction of the council’s carbon footprint.
But while they may be saving the environment they are not saving council cash, with each box costing £1.27 – 1p more than the traditional urn.
A spokesman for the City Council said: “We started using ecourns after a short consultation with the funeral directors, as many crematoria now use them.
“These eco-urns are tastefully designed and made from renewable materials. Southampton City Council chose to move away from plastic urns because they are not environmentally friendly and we want to reduce our carbon footprint.”
But grieving families shocked to have their relatives returned in a cardboard eco-urn have not been won round by their environmental benefits.
Keith Pullen, from Plymouth, recently lost his mother, Eileen, who lived in Romsey. She was cremated at Southampton Crematorium. He said: “I was shocked and upset to find my mother’s ashes returned in a cardboard box. I don’t think saying it is better for the environment is a good enough reason to treat people with so much disrespect.”
Southampton is not alone.
Local authorities across the country are adopting the more environmentally friendly option.
The privately run Wessex Vale Crematorium, in West End, told the Daily Echo they have been using eco-friendly boxes since October and mourners have accepted them. Deputy manager Eugene Tyrrell said: “We know that Eastleigh is a very environmentally friendly borough so we wanted to do our bit and opted to use these new bio-degradable cardboard boxes.
“We have chosen to use burgundy ones and the reaction from families has been really positive.”
Portchester Crematorium works slightly differently and uses whatever the funeral directors give them.
This is not the death knell for the traditional urn though, as relatives can still opt for one by arranging it with their funeral director.
Michael Peace, of AH Cheater Ltd Romsey, said: “It’s standard for the ashes to be given to us from the crematorium in a box.
“However, if customers would like a traditional urn they can arrange that through their funeral director.”
Additional reporting by Melanie Adams