(CNN) -- The ashes of cremated body parts from some of the nation's war dead were dumped in landfills until 2008, unbeknownst to their survivors, an Air Force general acknowledged Wednesday.
The practice was stopped, and remains from cremated body parts now are disposed of at sea, Air Force Chief of Public Affairs Brig. Gen. Les Kodlick said.
The landfill disposal of the ashes was first reported in The Washington Post.
Kodlick issued a statement describing instances prior to 2008 when families had authorized portions of remains to be disposed of. Another Air Force official, speaking on background, emphasized that these situations did not involve bodies but "parts of bone and other DNA material."
Military escorts accompanied the remains to a crematorium near Dover Air Force Base Mortuary, which processes remains of service members killed overseas, the statement said.
After cremation, the ashes were escorted back to Dover, Kodlick said, and then turned over to a contractor "for further incineration and disposition in accordance with medical disposition."
"The common practice was that any residual matter remaining after incineration was disposed of by the contractor in a landfill," Kodlick said.
"We could have done it better," he said.
The Air Force official speaking on background emphasized that families had authorized disposal of those remains, but did not know the ashes would be put in a landfill.