Cardboard Burial Caskets Explained: Price & Types

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Putting a loved one to rest involves making many, many choices. Choosing a casket is just one of them. Anyone who has ever gone through this process knows there are many types of caskets to choose from. You need to find one that’s right for your goals, needs, and budget.

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It may be surprising to you to know that cardboard is a viable material used for making caskets. In that vein, it is worth keeping cardboard caskets in mind if you’re not sure which material is ideal for your purposes.

There are many reasons some people go with this option and some popular types of cardboard caskets available. Below, we explain why some folks choose cardboard caskets, and where you can purchase them.

What’s a Cardboard Casket?

A cardboard casket is exactly what it sounds like: a casket for a loved one’s body made with cardboard instead of other traditional materials.

The following section will explain why you might consider this choice.

» MORE: Honor a loved one with an online memorial. Create one for free with Cake.

Is It Legal or OK to Bury a Loved One in a Cardboard Casket?

The Federal Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule” gives consumers significant freedom of choice regarding the decisions they might make when planning a funeral for a loved one or themselves. This includes the freedom to choose the type of casket they wish to use for burial or cremation.

Generally, it is legal and permissible to bury a loved one in a cardboard casket. However, some jurisdictions have very specific laws about burials that may differ from most laws throughout the nation. Thus, you should still research to determine if a cardboard casket is legal in your area, although odds are good it will be.

You should also research the cemeteries or crematoriums you plan on working with. Although using a cardboard casket may technically be legal, individual cemeteries and crematoriums often have the power to establish their own rules regarding the types of caskets they might accept.

However, the question of whether it is “ok” to use a cardboard casket may have slightly different implications. In general, you might wonder if using a cardboard casket is acceptable from a cultural or even environmental perspective.

From a cultural perspective, you need to decide whether you wish to bury someone or cremate them in a cardboard casket. Some people feel more comfortable sticking to traditional materials for personal reasons. You might not feel comfortable burying or cremating a loved one in a somewhat unconventional casket style. That’s entirely understandable.

Further down, this guide will expand upon the pros and cons of cardboard caskets. However, if protecting the environment is among your chief priorities, you should be aware that cardboard caskets represent a “green” alternative to traditional options. This is because the process of manufacturing them is less resource-intensive.

Why Aren’t Cardboard Caskets Used More Often?

There are a number of reasons why cardboard caskets are less popular than caskets of other materials.

Tradition

Tradition is one primary reason people don't use cardboard caskets very often. For many years, most people in the US have assumed that a casket is a wood or metal item. Many people don't even consider cardboard caskets to be an option, perhaps because they are unaware of their existence. Even those who know they can choose a cardboard casket might nevertheless decide not to because they feel more comfortable adhering to tradition.

Availability

Many people buy their caskets and other such funeral products directly from funeral homes. Because cardboard caskets are fairly new and untraditional, funeral homes usually don't offer them.

Durability concerns

Some have certain genuine concerns about the use of a cardboard casket. When choosing a casket for a loved one's burial or cremation, you'll naturally want to ensure it's sturdy. It needs to support their weight and remain in good condition throughout the service. No one wants to disrespect the memory of a loved one by choosing a casket that is low-quality.

Later on, this overview will explain how cardboard caskets are often much more durable than people may assume. That said, because cardboard caskets have historically not been widely used, there are many misconceptions regarding their durability.

Along with concerns about a cardboard casket's sturdiness, some might worry that this material won't hold up to rain. While that's a valid concern, it's not a necessary one. Technological innovations have allowed the manufacture of cardboard caskets that can remain in ideal condition even if they were completely submerged in water for extended periods. But, because many don't realize this, they may not decide to use cardboard caskets.

Why Do People Choose Cardboard Caskets Over Other Materials?

There’s no single universal reason why people choose cardboard caskets over others. The following are just some of the more common reasons:

Environmental benefits

Cardboard caskets are generally more eco-friendly than wood or metal caskets. This is because manufacturers often primarily use recycled materials when making cardboard caskets.

Additionally, most cardboard caskets are entirely biodegradable. If conserving resources was an important value of the deceased, you may want to consider this option. A cardboard casket is also worth keeping in mind if you’re planning a natural burial.

Cost

A wide range of factors may contribute to how much you can expect to spend on a casket, regardless of its material.

That said, cardboard caskets are typically more cost-effective than others.

Durability

You might understandably worry that cardboard isn’t a durable enough material for a casket.

Fortunately, despite being very lightweight, cardboard is much more durable than many assume. As long as you purchase your casket from a reputable supplier, it will serve its purpose exactly as intended. 

Cremations

Cremations are becoming increasingly popular. However, in many instances, you still need to keep the deceased’s body in some type of casket before the cremation is finished. Cardboard is ideal for this purpose.

Pros and Cons of Cardboard Caskets

It’s always critical to remember that there is no “right” or “wrong” casket to bury or cremate a loved one. The ideal choice for one family may not be right for another. 

However, suppose you’re leaning towards choosing a cardboard casket for yourself or a family member. In that case, you might want to learn more about the pros and cons of this option. The following breakdown should help you better understand whether a cardboard casket is a right choice based on your goals and preferences.

Pros

The pros of a cardboard casket include the following:

Savings

Again, cardboard caskets usually cost less than traditional wooden or metal caskets. Using one is an option worth considering if you're on a budget.

Protecting the environment

Suppose you're choosing a casket for someone who was very eco-conscious. In that case, you might wish to honor their memory by selecting one that uses up fewer resources than traditional types of caskets.

Customizing your casket

Some companies and manufacturers strictly offer cardboard caskets of their own design. However, cardboard is a more versatile material than others. Accordingly, it's possible to customize a cardboard casket in a manner that isn't possible when buying a traditional wooden or metal casket. Although you can theoretically customize a traditional casket, doing so is typically more costly than it would be if you were to purchase a casket made of cardboard.

Cons

Because no one type of casket is "perfect," it is worth noting that there are some drawbacks to choosing a cardboard casket. They include:

Breaking with tradition

Often, those deciding which funeral products to purchase for a loved one's service consider their feelings and those of other family members and friends. You might be comfortable breaking with tradition and purchasing a cardboard casket. However, you may have genuine concerns about whether others will feel the same about your choice.

Availability

Cardboard caskets are less widely used than wooden or metal caskets. Thus, if you're in a rush, you may struggle to find a casket that suits your needs when buying directly from the funeral home.

Weight limits

Although cardboard caskets can support more weight than some people think, there is an upper limit to how much weight they can accommodate. Traditional caskets can support much more weight than cardboard caskets can.

How Much Does a Cardboard Casket Cost?

You always need to consider how much a casket costs when choosing a material.

While there’s no set price for cardboard caskets, as different types cost different sums (and factors such as delivery methods will also play a role in how much you spend), for the most part, a cardboard casket will be much less expensive than another type. Online prices for standard cardboard caskets start at just a little over $200. That includes the price of delivery.

While prices can increase from there, cardboard caskets are much easier to customize than other types. By having more control over which features you do and don’t want to add to your basic casket, you’ll have more control over the total cost.

What Are the Different Types of Cardboard Caskets?

Cardboard caskets come in many different shapes, sizes, and designs. These are merely a few popular options worth considering:

1. Traditional

Although you’re choosing a relatively uncommon material (when compared to options like wood or metal) if you’re purchasing a cardboard casket, you might still prefer the shape of a traditional coffin.

If so, you’ll find there are plenty of cardboard caskets that perfectly resemble what you’re looking for. You can even find cardboard caskets with finishes/paint jobs that make the material resemble traditional wood.

2. Personalized

Some cardboard casket manufacturers allow customers to personalize the design of their caskets so they can feature photos of the deceased, illustrations, or similar designs.

This is difficult to offer when selling other types of caskets, as the process of manufacturing and assembling them takes too long to allow for much personalization. This is another reason some people choose cardboard caskets.

3. DIY cardboard caskets

When searching for cardboard caskets, you’ll also find plenty of manufacturers who offer caskets you can assemble yourself at home.

Instead of trusting an outside party to customize your casket precisely the way you want them to, with one you can assemble yourself, you’ll be able to exercise more control over the finished product.

(Just make sure you read the directions carefully!)

4. Unique designs

You might want a cardboard casket that doesn’t resemble a traditional coffin, but you might also feel less-than-confident in your ability to create a design that will do your loved one justice.

Don’t worry if you feel this way. Unlike other materials, it’s easy to add dynamic visual features to cardboard. As a result, there are many types of cardboard caskets featuring a wide range of designs. Options include floral designs, paintings of nature or the ocean, abstract patterns, and many, many more.

5. Funny cardboard caskets

Saying goodbye to a loved one doesn’t always need to be an entirely somber affair. Sometimes, when a person had a striking sense of humor in life, they’d want those putting them to rest to enjoy a few light-hearted laughs while doing so.

Not everyone is comfortable with this approach, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with adding some humor to the proceedings if your intentions are good (and you know you won’t offend any of the deceased’s loved ones or close friends).

This is yet another reason cardboard caskets are so unique. Once more, the ease of manufacturing them allows designers to exercise a lot more creativity than they can when working with other materials. There are cardboard caskets that resemble boxes of chocolate, cars, and even decks of playing cards (just to name a few). 

6. Boxes

Everyone’s approach to saying goodbye to a loved one is unique. Factors ranging from personal taste to cultural values will influence how you choose to put someone to rest.

For instance, in some cultures, mourning shouldn’t involve excessive displays of wealth or pride. Someone from such a culture may prefer a cardboard casket that resembles nothing more than a typical shipping container. This is also a common option that’s very easy to find.

7. Pet caskets

It’s worth noting that cardboard caskets aren’t exclusively for humans!

If you’re looking for a casket for a beloved pet, there are many cardboard caskets that are the perfect size and shape for a dog, cat, or any other pet.

8. Cardboard urns

While the primary focus of this guide is traditional cardboard caskets, you should also know that many cardboard urns offer the same benefits as caskets. The only difference is that they’re smaller, as they’ll hold a loved one’s ashes, not their body.

This is an eco-friendly option if you’re not sure what to do with someone’s ashes after cremating them. You could place them in a biodegradable cardboard urn and bury it in a suitable location. However, if you do, check the local laws first, as there are some restrictions on where you can and can’t bury cremains.

Where Can You Buy a Cardboard Casket?

The type of cardboard casket you purchase will determine where you can buy it from. Options to keep in mind include:

Online specialty retailers

Many people buy cardboard caskets online. Some online retailers sell basic caskets, some sell a variety of styles, and some allow you to customize your order.

If you go this route, just make sure you research your options thoroughly to avoid buying a casket from a retailer that’ll deliver an inferior product. It’s tempting to buy from the site with the best discounts, but sometimes, low prices mean low quality.

» MORE: Need help with funeral costs? Create a free online memorial to gather donations.

General retailers

Not all retailers selling cardboard caskets specialize in this type of product.

Some general retailers, such as Walmart, Costco, Target, and Alibaba also sell cardboard caskets. You may want to consider them if you’d like to do business with an established company you know you can trust.

Funeral homes

Many funeral homes sell caskets directly, and some of them sell cardboard caskets.

If you believe your funeral home offers quality products, buying a casket from them will save you the time you might otherwise spend looking for a separate retailer.

Alternatives to Cardboard Caskets and Urns

If you want a casket or urn that's lightweight, relatively inexpensive, and better for the environment than traditional options, here are some alternatives to consider: 

  • Softwood caskets. Many caskets are made out of hardwoods, like mahogany, cherry, and poplar. But a lighter and more affordable option for caskets is softwood. One example is a pine casket, which can be both beautiful and affordable, as well as more eco-friendly.  
  • Woven wicker caskets. Another affordable and lightweight option is a woven wicker or rattan casket. These are made of natural fibers that are strong and appealing while weighing less and more easily decomposing in the earth. 
  • Burial shroud. Even more simplistic than a cardboard casket is a burial shroud. Burial shrouds are made of natural fibers, and they're used to wrap the body as an alternative to any casket. This allows the body to come into contact with the earth underground, encouraging more natural decomposition. 
  • Paper urns. A paper urn is similar to a cardboard urn, but it's even lighter and more eco-friendly. They're made to decompose extra quickly underground or in water, and they come in a variety of beautiful styles and designs. 
  • Bio urn. If you want to support the earth with your or a loved one's urn, you can choose a bio urn. These are made to feed the soil, and you can even place seeds or bulbs inside them to plant a flower, tree, or any type of plant you wish.

Frequently Asked Questions: Cardboard Caskets

Do you still have questions about cardboard caskets? Keep reading to learn more!

How do you carry a cardboard casket?

This is a very practical and understandable question you may have if you are thinking about using a cardboard casket for the burial or cremation of a loved one. Since cardboard is not as sturdy a material as more traditional casket material options, you might have concerns regarding how to safely carry a cardboard casket without damaging it.

Luckily, carrying a cardboard casket is as simple as carrying any other type of casket, provided you buy the right model.

It’s important to check the specifications of a cardboard casket before purchasing one. You need to confirm that the chosen casket can support the deceased’s weight. Additionally, some cardboard caskets have handles.

Naturally, manufacturers of cardboard caskets include handles specifically so that pallbearers may carry a casket. Suppose the specifications of a model you’re considering purchasing indicate it can support your loved one’s weight and has handles. In that case, you can carry it the same way you would carry a casket of another material.

How much do cardboard caskets weigh?

The weight of a cardboard casket can vary from one model to another. Some cardboard caskets weigh as little as 20 pounds. Others can weigh as much as 80 pounds.

Are cardboard caskets strong?

After reading the answer to the above question, you might worry that a cardboard casket won’t be strong enough to serve your needs. The weight of a cardboard casket may seem very light compared to that of a traditional wood or metal casket.

Don’t worry. Buy a cardboard casket from a reputable manufacturer. You can find models that may support up to 280 pounds of weight. Again, be sure to research the manufacturer from whom you plan to buy a casket, and check the specifications before making a purchase. Even if you buy from a trusted manufacturer, your casket might not be ideal if you choose the wrong model.

How long does it take for a body to decompose in a cardboard casket?

There is no “official” answer to this question. After 50 years, all that's typically left of a body is skin and tendons in a mummified state. The full decomposition process takes about a century.

Decomposition will likely occur more quickly in a cardboard casket. A cardboard casket itself breaks down more easily than a traditional casket, allowing for faster decomposition.

Can a loved one be cremated in a cardboard casket?

Yes. In fact, some manufacturers offer models of cardboard caskets specifically for cremations. 

Often, these models are ideal for direct cremations, but you might also purchase one if you want a low-cost container for a loved one’s body during the cremation process.

Just confirm that the crematory you’re working with permits the use of cardboard caskets. If it does, make sure your chosen casket meets any specifications or criteria the crematory may have. Not all cardboard caskets are ideal for cremation purposes. 

Cardboard Caskets: An Increasingly Common Choice

Someone choosing a casket for a loved one’s body will typically have many questions, such as “How much does a casket weigh?” or “Which material is best for a casket?”

Remember, there’s no one answer to these questions. This is a personal choice. Hopefully, this guide has helped you better understand whether a cardboard casket is a choice you’d consider.

If you're looking for more on caskets, read our guide on how to find an affordable casket and wicker caskets.


Sources:
  1. “6 Reasons We Are Using Cardboard for Our Coffins.” Mourning Dove Studio, Mourning Dove Studio LLC, 7 February 2017, Mourningdovestudio.com

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