To answer the shortage of them due to the COVID-19 toll, some companies are offering alternatives such as an environmentally friendly cardboard coffin.
Wilson Tong, CEO of LifeArt Asia, looks at a catalog showing over 40 different choices of coffin designs as a machine is printing the Lily picture on a cover of a coffin, at Tong's factory in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
LifeArt Asia has cardboard coffins made of recycled wood fiber that can be customized with designs on the exterior. In its factory in Aberdeen, a southern district of Hong Kong, up to 50 coffins can be produced a day.
A message is displayed on a paper coffin at the factory of LifeArt in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
CEO Wilson Tong said there is still some resistance to using caskets made of cardboard. “(People feel that) it’s a little bit shameful to use so-called paper caskets. They feel that this is not very respectful to their loved ones,” Tong said.
Tong, CEO of LifeArt Asia, left, and a worker move a blue floral coffin on top of other paper coffins at the factory in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
But he noted the company has designs that can reflect religion or hobbies and the coffin can even have a personalized color. "So it gives more than enough sufficient choices to the people, and so that they can customize the funeral and offer a more pleasant farewell without the fear of death.”
A worker lifts up a paper coffin at the factory of LifeArt in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
The company says its cardboard coffins, when burned during the cremation, emits 87% less greenhouse gas compared to those made of wood or wood substitutes. Each LifeArt coffin weighs about 10.5 kilograms (23 pounds), and can carry a body that weights up to 200 kilograms (441 pounds).
A worker places a cover on top of a paper coffin at the factory of LifeArt in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
Hong Kong has reported about 200 deaths daily on average over the past week as many elderly residents who were unvaccinated die from COVID-19. The surge has put a strain on mortuaries, and refrigerated containers are being used to temporarily store bodies.
A pile of cardboard is placed at the factory of LifeArt to make paper coffin in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
Amid the rising toll, non-profit Forget Thee Not, which advises people on their choices for last rites, bought 300 cardboard coffins and caskets to either send to hospitals or give to families who need them. “We have been promoting environmental-friendly and personalized funerals. Now we see that Hong Kong needs more coffins. There are not enough coffins for the bodies in our hospitals,” said Albert Ko, a board director at Forget Me Not.
Wilson Tong, CEO of LifeArt Asia takes the models of paper coffins at the factory of LifeArt in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.
Ko said some of the elderly who discussed their last rites with the organization have been open-minded and welcoming to the idea of eco-coffins. “We hope to take this opportunity to contribute as well as promote eco-coffins,” he said.
Wilson Tong, CEO of LifeArt Asia, shows a material sample of the cardboard coffin at Tong's factory in Hong Kong, March 18, 2022.