Cardboard Coffins – Genius or the Worst Idea Ever?!

We haven’t done many funerals with cardboard coffins, it’s still relatively unusual even today. Wooden and wood effect coffins are used for the majority of funerals we perform. But I remember the very first funeral in which we used a cardboard coffin – a few years ago now. Actually, what I remember most clearly was the moment I was told “The family want to use a cardboard coffin” – I wasn’t sure what to think.

It was an unknown for us at the time. Don’t get me wrong, I’d seen cardboard coffins before, but hadn’t been able to test them in any way or get ‘hands on’ to see just how strong (or not!) they were.

The cardboard coffin was ordered on behalf of the family, this particular one didn’t have any design on it, just plain white. The ones we’ve used since have had numerous different designs. We’ve had bluebells, sunsets and Spitfires!

Spitfire

We waited for it to arrive, wondering what we’d be dealing with. It was delivered, in a cardboard box – no buy one get one free jokes!

Once out of the packaging we inspected it – something we do with all our coffins to make sure they’re up to scratch.

It arrived pre-assembled, not knowing what to expect I’d have to say we were really pleased with it. It was a lot stronger than I had anticipated – a big relief!

Looking back it seems a bit silly to think that it wouldn’t have been strong enough. I mean, something like that simply wouldn’t work as a product if it wasn’t up to the job. There’d be a few highly publicised nightmare stories and that would be the end of that. 

The coffin was a little lighter but performed very much like a regular wooden coffin and we couldn’t ask for more than that. That particular coffin and all the cardboard coffins we’ve used since hold up to 23 stone (146kg) in weight.

They are designed to withstand water, not that it would come in to contact with water anyway. We don’t perform burials, only cremations so our coffins are never exposed to the elements, even for a brief amount of time.

We’ve been informed that their integrity wouldn’t be compromised even if you threw a bucket of water over them – not sure why you’d do that but there you go!

As I said, this particular one didn’t have a printed design on it but it looked really smart. The ones we’ve used since have had designs and provide a really striking focal point. It’s just not something you see that often so it’s really attention grabbing when you walk in to the chapel and see yellow daffodils or purple butterflies on tulips.

Daffodils

We have been asked by customers – are cardboard coffins legal? Cardboard coffins are legal for both cremation and burial. In fact there is no law requiring a coffin be used at all. The only legal stipulation is that a body be covered in public. Typically this would be a shroud but even the means used to conceal the body isn’t defined. That said, we have always used a coffin. We have to ensure that the deceased is handled with dignity and in a safe manner.

I do have to say however that there is one misconception that needs addressing and that’s cost. Many of the families we talk to are surprised that cardboard coffins can cost more than wood effect coffins. This surprised me too!

The coffins we use for almost all of our funerals cost less than £200.  This is pictured below.

Coffin - The Tutbury

Now I have to say here that our coffin prices are perhaps lower than many other companies and I also acknowledge that there are very expensive wooden coffins which cost hundreds. But at Simple Cremations those more extravagant wooden coffins are not something we tend deal with. We do deal with wicker coffins and they are stunning, they look amazing but do cost more, you’re looking at prices from £370.

Cardboard coffins are cheaper than solid wood coffins, however they do cost more than many of the wood effect coffins. This is based on the actual cost price not the funeral directors prices which often includes a large premium.

Overall the cheapest types of coffin are wood effect / veneer coffins and cardboard coffins. Prices start at £200 for basic styles. Price-wise I think it’s fair to put them in the same bracket. A cardboard coffin can cost between £200 to £350, if you start venturing in to custom designs and shapes then you can end up spending a whole lot more.

In our experience cost isn’t the driving factor in choosing a cardboard coffin. There are two reasons that people have asked us to source a cardboard coffin for them.

The first is the environmental factor. They are eco-friendly and it’s argued that their carbon footprint is lower. As I mentioned, they are lighter, transporting a truck load of cardboard coffins is going to be more fuel efficient than transporting the same number of wooden coffins. They don’t have metal fixings and biodegrade far quicker.

The second factor is that they can capture their loved ones personality more. Because they are so customizable in terms of design you can find exactly the image that represents your loved one.

I’ve seen dozens of off-the-shelf designs offering a wide array of images but there are companies that will pretty much deliver any personalized design you want! They can introduce humour to the ceremony with everything from large boxes of chocolates and popcorn to snooker tables and even the TARDIS!

Some people even decorate the coffin themselves. I’m not talking from direct experience on this particular point but we’ve heard stories of children drawing and decorating their nan’s coffin (obviously before it’s occupied). It can provide comfort and make young children feel that they’re part of the process.

So that’s our experience with cardboard coffins. I think the apprehension was simply that we didn’t know what to expect but all the ones we’ve used over the years have been really good and more importantly the families that have chosen them were pleased with how it looked. They are still something of a rarity, but with such a wide range of designs available and prices lower than solid wood coffins I’m not surprised they’re an increasingly popular choice.

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