It could be a gravely comic scene from US TV drama Six Feet Under – mourners being kept warm using "body heat" generated from cremating their loved ones. But it is an idea that is set to be introduced at a crematorium near Manchester where grieving friends and relatives have had to shiver through services.

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Bosses on Tameside Council are planning to use the heat generated from cremating bodies to keep the mourners warm at Dukinfield Crematorium, in Greater Manchester in a radical green idea.

The idea could be straight out of the US drama about a family run mortuary. And jokers are already claiming that wives might tell their henpecked husbands: "At least it means you’ll create more energy when you’re dead."

But Tameside Council said it is deadly serious about the plan which it says will reduce its carbon footprint by capturing and reusing the energy.

Town hall chiefs say the heat generated will be enough to power the boiler and light the chapel. But they admit it is a sensitive issue and have promised to consult with clergy and the wider community before putting the plan into action.

Robin Monk, environment chief on Tameside Council, said: "I’m not sure how people will react, but we certainly don’t want to upset anyone.

"If you look at it in black and white, some people might sit there thinking, my relative is being cremated to heat the chapel.

"So we are conscious that it might be a sensitive matter. We will carry out full consultation with local priests, vicars and the public before a decision is taken."

The council must slash the amount of mercury released into the atmosphere by fitting expensive new filter equipment at the crematorium.

It costs £500,000 and must be in place by 2012.

Mercury contained in the flue gases actually comes from the vaporisation of tooth fillings.

Most people over 30 still have mercury tooth fillings, which means unless action is taken it could pose a problem for the next 60 years.

At the present rate, the government estimates crematoria will be Britainbs biggest source of mercury emissions by 2020.

Cremations take place at 1,000c but the temperature must be reduced to 160c in order to remove the mercury. The excess waste heat is sent up the flue and disappears in the atmosphere.

Mr Monk added: "Heat exchangers will be installed to reduce the temperature. The rest is simply wasted up the chimney.

"Basically it’s just heat which will otherwise be lost. The option is to capture it and re-use it for warming the radiators or boiling the kettles.

"We could just install the mercury abatement equipment and nothing else. But in this day and age we all have to look at reducing our carbon footprint."

Parishioners are digesting the new plans. But Rev Tim Hayes, of St John’s Church, Dukinfield said: "I have no problem with it.

"They treat people with real dignity at the crematorium, but the procedure itself is a very scientific process. I’ll be very intrested to see how the plans unfold."

Rev Dr Vernon Marshall, of Old Chapel, Dukinfield, said: "As a final act of generosity, it’s a lovely way for the dead to provide comfort for the living at a difficult time.

"I think it’s a great idea."

via Daily Mail