Alien timber to become cheap, eco-friendly coffins

The timber of invasive alien trees cleared off watersheds and river systems around the country is to be used to make “eco-friendly” coffins, the Working for Water Programme (WWP) said on Monday.

“A partnership between the WWP, key government departments and faith-based groups has been awarded $150 000 [about R1-million] for a two-year pilot project to manufacture eco-friendly coffins,” the WWP said.

The WWP is a flagship government initiative aimed at eradicating the invasive plants that infest millions of hectares of South Africa, while employing and training thousands of poor people in the course of its efforts.

Project leader Shaun Cozette said the solid-wood coffins will sell for between R450 and R500 each.

They will be made to the “same standards as you would buy from anyone else” in the industry.

Currently, the WWP is using cleared pine wood to build prototypes, but plans, as the project got going, to start making coffins out of blue-gum timber, he said.

The price of the WWP’s coffins looks set to stand South Africa’s funeral trade on its head.

According to one funeral parlour contacted by the South African Press Association, a solid-wood, bottom-of-the-range “casket” will set the buyer back about R6 000. Plain, unpainted chipboard coffins cost from R650 upwards.

The WWP initiative appears to be aimed at the country’s poor, who struggle to meet the high cost of burying their dead.

It is also in line with the programme’s aim of “adding value” to the alien wood it clears, and the creation of more downstream jobs.

It is understood the coffins will soon be sold through partnerships the WWP is forging with existing undertaking businesses.—Sapa

WWP communications officer Ramona Baijnath said anyone interested in finding out more about the eco-friendly coffins should e-mail cozettes@dwaf.gov.za or contact the WWP’s toll-free line on Tel: 0800 005376.

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