The “eco-Jeneza”, (eco-coin) has lent a novel interpretation to death as we know it, to conform with universal green practices and initiatives that support environmental consciousness - SENIOR STAFF WRITTER
Death need not mark the end of efforts towards helping save our planet. It’s rather dark, intriguing, enigmatic and obviously venerated status is gradually shedding its hitherto drab tag. The 21st century has birthed a new wave of acuities when it comes to burying the dead. Eco-coffins, as they have come to be popularly known, as are gaining ground (literally!) because they are environmentally friendly, biodegradable and cheaper than traditional coffins. This is also tied to concerns over burial space as most graveyards are now full, with coffins that may take a thousand years to bio-degrade. Eco-coffins and eco-urns are, therefore, growing in popularity as the world’s concern over the environment becomes an even bigger reality.
Ecocoffins come in various eco-friendly materials: willow, bamboo, pandanus, banana, pine and cardboard. Cardboard coffins are the cheapest of them all, made purely from cardboard. They are mostly popular in Europe, North America, South Africa and Hong Kong.
In Kenya, the coffins, branded eco-Jeneza, are made from recycled paper, have plastic handles on the side and can be assembled in a mere 10 minutes, thereby offering a welcome relief from the high costs of funerals. That is against a backdrop of worrying statistics that Kenya loses 616,000 trees and 30, 800 tonnes of timber every year to the coffins industry as 80 per cent of bodies are buried in wooden caskets.
East African Packaging Industries (EAPI) is the well-appointed home of the novel eco-Jeneza. With endorsements from the environment regulator, National Environmental Management Authority (Nema), as an environmentally-friendly way to bury the dead, the eco-Jeneza coffin is made from bio-degradable materials. According to its makers, the chemistry of the coffin is: Recycled paper (40.2 per cent) plastic components (4.6 per cent) starch (2.2 per cent) and virgin pulp/paper (53.0 per cent). It is also a solution to the increasingly expensive affair of burying the dead. While wooden coffins cost between Sh 15, 000 to Sh 100,000 depending on the quality and size, the eco-Jeneza retails between Sh 2,500 and Sh 10, 000.
There is nothing otherworldly about being buried in a cardboard coffin and thus EAPI officials are well aware of this impediment that is embedded on cultural values. This has to do with the fact that many Kenyans, as indeed other people, believe their loved ones should receive a “proper send off” hence the best way to pay their last respects is going all out on the cost, material and design of the coffin.
According to EAPI Sales and Marketing Manager, Meshack Dwallow, “the wooden coffin was stiffly resisted when it was introduced by colonialists. With time the eco-Jeneza will also be accepted. It is in lockstep with African culture where burial is simplified and does not hurt the environment.”
The eco-Jeneza resembles the conventional coffin and comes in small, medium and large sizes. It is a decent, affordable and environmentally friendly crafted coffin made from heavy duty corrugated cardboard and can hold up to 120 kilograms. It is biodegradable and suitable for both burial and cremation. It is a non-pollutant; no toxins, resins and glue that seep into the earth long after the body has decomposed as is the case with conventional coffins. Additionally, due to its biodegradable material, it reduces coffin theft.
It’s suitability for cremation arises from its ability to reduce the amount of energy consumed (by 40 per cent) as the cardboard coffin burns faster: the sum effect is very critical and the cutting of trees is also drastically reduced.
Whilst it normally takes four hours to cremate using the tradition wooden coffin, the eco-Jeneza will reduce it by half, meaning we consume less energy and the carbon emitted to the atmosphere is also reduced. This kind of coffin would go a long way in reducing deforestation while cushioning the country against the devastating impacts of climate change, according to the manufacturers.
“As a company we engage ourselves in a lot of research and development and are always looking into ways of improving ourselves, in addition to enriching and enlarging our existing products”, says Dwallow. “We send our people out to Europe to see how things are being done because this is one of the concepts that has gained prominence not only in Europe but countries such as South Africa as well.”
EAPI begun by touching base with industry players: all leading funeral homes, church leaders and is now trying to establish distributors across the country. “We had a stakeholders’ forum for them to bring their ideas on board. No matter how good an idea you have it cannot succeed unless you include people in order for them to also own the process”. They are now looking to add on more customised but standard features in order to increase the appeal across the board.
“At EAPI we recognise that we do not own the environment but that it’s a debt we owe future generations. It’s all about sustainability-meeting present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own”. The company achieves this by implementing an Environmental Management System that meets the requirements of ISO 14001: 2004.
EAPI’s Corrugated Carton Division is the largest manufacturer of corrugated cartons in Eastern Africa. “We offer various types of corrugated carton depending on the planned end- use. The various cartons and SFK are manufactured according to customer’s preferences and conform to the statutory and regulatory requirements of KEBS, quality standards of ISO9001:2000 and environmental standards of ISO14001:2004”.
EAPL was registered in Kenya in 1959 and entered the market by setting up a factory in Mombasa to manufacture paper sacks. In 1967, EAPI took over Kenya Box Limited and established a corrugated carton factory in Nairobi’s industrial area.
EAPL is a member of the Canadian Overseas Packaging Industries Limited (COPI) Group of Companies
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