Why Plastics Aren’t Used to Make Headstones & Memorials

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Image illustrating why memorials are made with natural stones and not plastic materials

The modern world is surrounded by things that are made from plastics, glass, perspex, and other man-made materials, so you may be wondering if it’s possible to make headstones and other memorials from plastic – and if not, why not?

Theoretically, plastic and other similar materials can be used to make many things.

It can even be said that we rely far too heavily on plastics – but that doesn’t make it the best material for all things.

There are very good reasons for why headstones and memorials are not made from plastics and other man-made materials.

Instead, the headstones and memorials that you find in cemeteries and churchyards are made from natural stone because of key reasons that we’ll soon go into in more detail.

In fact, ever since civilisation began memorialising the deceased, natural materials like stone have always been the material of choice for humankinds most important structures, monuments and memorials.

Natural stone headstones and memorials in churchyard outside church

Can You Put a Plastic Headstone in a Cemetery?

Councils, cemeteries and churchyards across the UK do not permit the installation of headstones or memorials that are made from plastic or other similar materials.

Back in 2006 there was a case in the north of England where a town centre store was selling black plastic headstones complete with stick-on gold lettering.

Customers were purchasing these plastic headstones and placing them at the graves of their loved ones.

Council chiefs became concerned at the use of these plastic memorials across town cemeteries and quickly acted to halt their use.

The store argued that they were providing cheap plastic replica memorials for customers who couldn’t afford the price of natural stone memorials provided by memorial masons.

However, the council cited major concerns about their longevity, weather-resistance, lack of secure installation and the way in which they didn’t blend in with natural cemetery and churchyard surroundings – not to mention the negative impact plastic materials can have on the environment.

You may see plastic replica gravestones make a temporary appearance when used outside households for Halloween, but certainly not used as memorials in cemeteries and churchyards!

Two plastic replica headstones on the ground outside

Plastic replica gravestones used as decoration for Halloween.

Natural Stone Materials Used for Headstones & Memorials

The natural stone materials that are most commonly used for headstones and memorials include:

  • Granites
  • Limestones
  • Marbles
  • Sandstones
  • Slate

Reasons Why Memorials Are Made From Natural Stone

Memorials are made from natural stone for three key reasons:

1.      Their Unique Properties

2.      Health & Safety

3.      Environmentally Friendly

Let’s explore these key reasons to better understand why natural stone materials are used to make headstones and memorials rather than plastics or other man-made materials.

Three natural stone headstones in a field at sunset

1.      Unique Properties of Natural Stone Memorials

Natural stone contains many beneficial and unique properties that make it the perfect material to use for memorials, including:

  • Aesthetically Appealing
  • Highly Durable
  • Strong Density
  • Porous & Permeable
  • Highly Weather Resistant
  • Suitable for Carving, Engraving & Crafting

Natural stone materials are physically beautiful and available in a wide variety of types, colours, textures etc. while they are also able to resist the adverse effects of natural outdoor forces like the wind, high or low temperatures, strong sunlight and heavy rainfall.

Although certain stones are stronger, more durable and more weather-resistant than others, all stone materials are still incredibly dense and tough, making them all capable of far out-lasting many other materials, including plastics, when exposed to outside elements.

Despite the density and strength of stone, memorial masons can still carve stone into any shape and easily engrave stone materials.

2.      Health & Safety for Safe Installation of Memorials

The current British Standards (BS8415:2018) which sets out the standard for safe installation and durability of memorials are based on natural stone memorials.

The British Standards make no provision for any other materials such as plastics, perspex, glass etc. as these materials have little-to-no record of being used for memorials in public places and so have not been subject to long-term time-trials to observe how they weather and deteriorate.

Church and cemetery authorities fear that allowing headstones that are made from untested materials such as plastic, perspex and glass to be installed could lead to an influx of unregulated memorials.

There is no way of regulating the quality or standard of these other materials, and with highly questionable durability and safety concerns, this could potentially lead to broken, perished, dilapidated and dangerous memorials being installed in public places.

Aerial view of natural headstones in churchyard

3.      Environmentally Friendly Materials for Memorials

The world is rightly focused on moving forward with environmentally friendly choices wherever possible – take the UK’s current “The Reduce, Refill and Replace Revolution” campaign as an example.

With all things considered, natural stone has been the clear winner for thousands of years when it comes to selecting a material that can produce a memorial that is environmentally friendly, long-lasting, and aesthetically pleasing.

Many materials, especially those that are man-made such as plastics, do not blend sympathetically with the natural environment nor do they attract nature in the same way that natural stone does.

Natural stone attracts lichens and mosses which compliments and blends with the natural environment within which it sits, with no chance of any ground contamination – something that plastics and other man-made materials are guilty of during their (often rapid) deterioration over time.

We are striving to reduce our dependence on plastics and other hydrocarbon-based products in all walks of life, so it would be illogical to introduce these materials into cemeteries and churchyards – places that are essentially public open spaces used for the peaceful contemplation of the bereaved within a natural environment.

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