How shonky is the funeral industry? A NSW state parliamentary inquiry into the funeral industry revealed a range of dodgy practices – like the use of cardboard coffins and body-mix-ups – but industry experts say that such occurrences are few and far-between.

But according to an anonymous Crikey reader, there are still some fairly unsavoury practices going on behind closed doors:

How many people realise that when people are cremated, after the due time, the remains, pieces of femur bone etc are selected, ground up in a glorified “coffee grinder,” collected in a box underneath, enough to fill the “standard acceptable box of ashes” that’s given to the family? What about the spare bones left over from the “burn” – dumped in a collective rubbish bin with other ‘left-overs’ ( I have personally witnessed), then BURIED in a hole somewhere around a cemetery!

Another reader with many years in the industry claims that most practices are actually above board, and would like to see a bit of balance returned to the current argument about funerals. For a start, claims about industry giant, Invocare, need to be measured, as its brands (with the exception of White Ladies, which is very expensive) are “on average far cheaper than most of their competitors.” As for claims about cardboard coffins, they’re illegal in NSW, and hardly a popular choice:

Years ago when a recycled shop at Newtown closed down, they had a massive clear out sale. They ended up not being able to sell the three flat-packed cardboard coffins, and eventually gave them away. Even in cosmopolitan Newtown, people did not want them!

And while some funeral operators might offer over-priced options, the profits aren’t always going to the ones doing the hard work, according to our source:

How many whinging bloody pensioners, bureaucratic political w*nkers, average Joes, desperately unemployed, etc, etc, would put their hand up and volunteer to do my job, including all the gruesome bloody foul mortuary work, and be on 24-hour call every couple of weeks, with an average of a 50-hour working week, for less than $600pw?

CRIKEY: If you have any insights on the funeral industry send them to [email protected].