What to Know About Scattering Ashes (and some creative ways to do it)

Cremation

Posted on February 18, 2014 by Owen Toy, Edited by Mica Matlack

Can I scatter my ashes in the backyard? How about at my local park? How about in a baseball stadium like in that one movie? With more people opting for cremation than ever before, finding the right place to scatter is important, though the legality of it is is even more so. So where, and how, is it legal to scatter my loved one's ashes?

Where Can I Scatter Cremated Remains or Ashes?

Private Property 

It is appropriate to scatter your loved ones ashes on private property if it is your own property. If you want to scatter their ashes on another persons property, make sure you get their consent.

Public Property

If you are trying to scatter ashes in a publicly controlled place like a park, you should have to check with the local laws and regulations of your municipality before doing so. You may need a permit in order to scatter the ashes. If you are trying to scatter cremains somewhere public that is not regulated, like a forest, then you should also check with the local authorities as to whether it is permissible to scatter ashes there.

If given the "all clear", you should scatter the ashes at least 100 yards away from trails to respect other people who may be offended or disturbed by watching this. Please be discreet in your scattering and mindful of the people around you. You do not want to be like this guy who scattered the ashes of a friend in the Met Opera pit during intermission, prompting an immediate shut down and swift response from the NYPD.

Scattering Ashes in Water

When scattering ashes in the water, you must scatter the ashes at a distance of at least 3 nautical miles and the water must be at least 600 feet deep. Some places will require the water to be deeper. For example, Florida requires the water to be 1,800 feet deep. You can also throw things overboard with the ashes like flowers. However, everything that is thrown with the ashes must be able to decompose. Within the first 30 days of disposing of the ashes you must contact the EPA.

The guidelines above are good to keep in mind, however a good rule of thumb reiterated by many reputable funeral industry organisations is "Don't ask, don't tell".

Carrying the Ashes to Scatter

Before you actually let go of the ashes of your loved one, you will still need something to carry them. In this case, there are scattering tubes (often low in pricing and biodegradable) which will help you transfer the ashes of your loved one to the destination of the scattering. Scattering tubes also come available in many designs and can be purchased with a click of a button thanks to the wonders of Amazon.

The Many Ways to Scatter Ashes

Casting Ashes

This is the act of throwing ashes into the wind. When doing this it is important to pay attention to which way the wind is blowing. You want to throw the ashes downwind so they don’t blow onto you or anyone else. 

If scattering on a particularily windy day or windy area, you might want to consider investing in a "Loved One Launcher”. It looks like an air canon but really it is a scattering urn. It costs $37,5 though you must claim an age over 18 years in order to purchase it. While scattering ashes via air canon can be fun, if used improperly it could cause serious injury or death. Please keep in mind it is not a toy, even though it can come with biodegradeable confetti in all your favorite colors.

Trenching Ashes

Trenching is when you dig a small hole, or trench, in some soil and then bury the ashes. A creative idea for trenching would be to dig out your loved one's name in bury the ashes in the letters carved in the earth. Maybe you could plant some seeds over top, to keep the location well marked, beautiful and smelling nicely.

Ringing Ashes

When ringing ashes, you must pour the ashes onto the ground in a circle, or ring. This can be done around a tree or a favorite spot of the deceased. Another way you could ring ashes would be to stand with your loved ones and friends in a circle and then ring the ashes in between or around everyone.

You could also plant mushroom spores over top the ringed ashes so a fairy ring grows. We would recommend Amanita muscaria or Russula emetica for their striking red tops.

Raking Ashes

This is when you pour the ashes onto the ground and then rake them so the ashes are spread everywhere. Raking is often done in scattering gardens, communal places where people scatter ashes.

Green Burial Ash Scattering

To do this you need a biodegradable urn. You dig a hole and then place the biodegradable urn inside the hole and bury it. Bios urns are biodegradeable urns that come with tree seeds and nutrient packages so one might grow their loved one into a tree. This is a good idea for those who always wanted a grandmother tree, like in the Disney movie Pocahontas. 

Scattering Ashes on Water

When scattering ashes over water you can either throw the ashes directly overboard or use a water-soluble urn like these from Passages International (check out the sea turtle!). Scattering ashes directly overboard can be troublesome because the ashes will drift around and will usually stick to the bottom of the boat. Water-soluble urns are urns that you throw overboard that will eventually dissolve and sink to the bottom of water.

Scattering Ashes in the Air

This is when your ashes are scattered from a plane or other aerial vehicle. Scattering ashes in the air is usually done by professionals though some companies allow loved ones to come along for the ride, at an additional cost. When scattering ashes from a plane you must first remove the ashes from the urn since federal law states that you cannot throw anything hazardous out of a plane. Ashes are not considered to be a hazardous material but an urn can be.

Ashes sent into space

These days, anything is possible. If you think it, chances are it already exists. If your loved one is a fan of Carl Sagan, the Sun or always wanted to be an astronaut, you might have considered sending their ashes into space. Well fret not, it is now possible! Thanks to the wonderful people at Elysium, you can send your loved one's ashes into space for the low low price of $1,990. But wait! There's more! As well as sending them into space, you can also...

  • Engrave your loved one's, or your own, onto the ashes capsule

  • You can write a personal message on the memorial spacecraft

  • Get an invitation to watch the spaceship launch

  • Recieve a professionally shot video of the launch

  • Get a certificate stating the completion of the memorial space launch and a tracking number to track the ashes as they orbit the Earth

As you can see there are many ways to scatter ashestraditionally and creatively, with new ways practically every day. But please be sure to check with the local municipality or your local funeral consumer alliance in regards to funeral and local law. And, of course, be mindful of those around you.

This article consolidates information found on the ICCFACANA, and CremationSolutions websites as well as other independently curated creative new ways to lay, or launch, your loved one into the next world.