The Byron Shire is set to finally get its own natural burial ground, with Council formally setting aside land near Mullumbimby for this purpose.
More than 20 years after the idea was first raised by members of the community, councillors voted to designate land near the Brunswick Valley Sewage Treatment Plant on Vallance’s Road for the burial ground at its last meeting.
Sustainable burial means that, rather than being buried in a fancy lacquered coffin, or contributing to carbon emissions through cremation, a person is buried naturally in a simple coffin that degrades easily.
They are also buried closer to the surface than in a conventional burial process, so that plants, grass and trees can more easily access the nutrients released by the body during decomposition.
Byron Council staff argued against the location of the natural burial ground at Vallances Road site.
They said that this would create flood and access issues, and was incompatible with other potential land use options for the site.
However, councillors disagreed.
They told staff to work with members of the community-based Natural Burial Committee to support their development application for the burial ground.
They further allocated $15,000 in the 2021/22 budget to assist the committee in their work.
Currently, about 80 per cent of people in Australia are cremated – a process that produces about 160kg of carbon into the atmosphere, as well as dioxins and heavy metals like mercury.
Conventional cemetery burials have an even greater impact on the environment because the process of embalming the body involves the use of formaldehyde – a known carcinogen that seeps into groundwater and the atmosphere.
The wooden coffin is usually lacquered, plastic lined and held together with toxic glues.
Furthermore, most modern headstones are made from granite shipped from China.