You have cremated remains to scatter. Where can you legally scatter them? Do you have to ask permission?
There are laws to follow. And each state has its rules on scattering. Continue reading and find out just about everything you will need to know to scatter your loved one’s ashes.
Can Human Ashes Be Scattered Anywhere?
The answer to this question is a simple “no” you can’t scatter cremated remains anywhere. As mentioned above, every state has laws to follow.
Due to the rise in cremation, it is becoming popular to scatter human ashes (also known as “cremated remains or cremains”).
Can Pet Ashes Be Scattered Anywhere?
No, you cannot scatter your pet’s cremains anywhere you want to. Unfortunately, pet ashes are considered to be a waste item in legal terms.
You can scatter the ashes on your own property. But if you decide to scatter anywhere else without permission, the law may get involved.
You must get permission from the landowner to spread the cremains on private property.
If it is public property, get in contact with your local Department of Parks and Recreation, the National Parks Service, or other state, county, and city authorities.
10 Places to Scatter Ashes
As cremation becomes more popular, people are looking for places to spread their loved one’s cremains.
Here are some ideas of where you might want (or be able to) scatter ashes. Before you do so, please remember to check with local and state laws.
1. In the ocean
The Federal Clean Water Act (CFR Title 40, from the EPA) requires cremated remains to be scattered at least three nautical miles from land. (Read more here.)
The cremains must be in a water-soluble container, or the urn must be disposed of separately. You’re also required to submit a completed Burial at Sea Reporting Form within 30 days.
There are many boats along any coastline that you can charter to handle a scattering at sea. The charter company will handle all of the legalities for you.
The companies usually have package deals for scattering at sea.
2. At the beach
You cannot scatter cremains at public beaches. You must get permission from the owner of a private beach to spread.
You may also consider “trenching” of the ashes on a beach. When you trench the ashes, you dig a shallow trench and put the cremated remains directly in it. Doing this at low tide will allow the ashes to wash out to sea as the tide comes in.
3. In a lake or river
If you want to scatter over water, federal law will also come into play. Federal law will take precedence over state law.
The Federal Clean Water Act governs scattering in inland waters such as rivers and lakes.
If you are scattering cremains in a river or lake, you may be legally bound to get a permit from the state agency that governs that particular waterway.
4. In a public park
You may scatter cremated remains in most national parks. Every location has its own rules and can be looked up at the Bureau of Land Management or at the National Park Service.
5. In a cemetery
Scattering cremated remains on top of someone’s grave in a cemetery is often not possible—some cemeteries have designated areas for the spreading of ashes.
Check with the cemetery sexton to find out the rules.
6. In a scattering garden
You can spread your loved one in a scattering garden, also known as a scattering area. Cemeteries and churches may have a designated area for cremated remains to be deposited.
There is usually a fee to use the scattering garden. The beauty of a scattering garden is that you can come to this particular spot to pay your respects.
7. Scattering by air
Scattering by air is known as air dispersal. The FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) does not prohibit dropping cremated remains from an airplane. It does prohibit the dropping of objects from a civil aircraft, meaning that the ashes cannot be dropped while still in the urn.
Scattering ashes this way may seem like a simple procedure, but it takes planning and practice. You don’t want your loved one’s cremains swirling back into the airplane.
You can hire a service to take care of this for you. You will receive a certificate with the coordinates where your loved one’s cremains were released.
If you are doing the piloting, have someone else release the ashes for you.
If done appropriately, scattering ashes from an airplane is a great way to honor the wishes of your loved one. But it can be dangerous.
While technically you aren’t scattering ashes, you can send your loved one’s ashes into space. The cremains would orbit the earth.
After two years, the capsule will return to Earth’s atmosphere, looking like a shooting star. What a beautiful send off for anyone that was an astronomy buff or space enthusiast!
The cost of sending your loved one into orbit starts at about $2500.00. That is not a bad deal!
9. Shotgun shells (by Holy Smokes in Alabama)
This company will take cremated ashes and add them to a rifle, pistol, or shotgun cartridge. About one pound of cremains will be enough for 250 shotgun shells (a single case.)
You can reach out to them here for more information.
10. Balloon scattering by Eternal Ascent Society (Nationwide)
Eternal Ascent Society adds cremated remains to five-foot biodegradable balloons, which are then filled with helium.
The balloons are released and rise to 30,000 feet. At that point, the balloon will freeze and shatter, releasing the ash to fall to the ground.
Visit their website here for more details. You can also find many local hot air balloon operators who will allow you to scatter the ashes from the balloon.
Where can you NOT scatter ashes?
There are places that you cannot scatter cremated remains. People sometimes get confused about what is private property. Even though something may have been paid for in part by tax dollars, it is still private property and cannot be used to scatter ashes.
At Disney World & other amusement parks
It is NOT legal to scatter cremains at any Disney park, but it still happens about once a month. When this happens, the park has to have a HEPA clean-up. An ultra-fine vacuum cleaner is needed to clean up the cremated remains. Once cleaned up, the human cremains will end up in a trash can.
Getting caught in the act of scattering your loved one will get you kicked out of the park.
At your favorite team’s stadium
It isn’t legal to scatter your loved one’s cremains in a sports stadium. Many stadiums don’t have an official policy on found cremation ashes. In all likelihood, they will end up in the garbage. And you will get a monetary fine and community service.
The garbage can is probably not where you wanted Uncle Barney’s ashes to be laid to rest, nor would he want you to be fined and have a record. Don’t scatter at private venues.
On private property (unless you have permission)
- Golf Courses - Groundskeepers will use a backpack blower to clean them up. The ashes will usually end up in a bunker.
- Baseball Fields - Releasing cremains at a baseball field is not legal. If you are caught, you will be fined and possibly banned.
- Nascar’s Bristol Motor Speedway - does allow the scattering of ashes within certain restrictions.
In the case of scattering ashes, it is better to get permission than ask for forgiveness.
Be considerate of others when scattering your loved one’s cremains. You don’t want people stepping all over your loved one’s ashes. Spread their ashes where they truly can rest in peace.
A scattering urn is a container that holds the cremated remains in preparation for scattering. They are typically designed with a lid that makes it easy to pour out and spread the ashes.
There are many types and styles of scattering urns available; here are three of our favorites.
Walnut Scattering Urn with Magnetic Release Lid
Made in the USA from solid walnut wood, this Scattering Urn with Magnetic Release Lid is an heirloom keepsake that also makes the scattering process as easy as possible. You can personalize the urn with a custom laser etched inscription of name, dates, and more.
Tribute Scattering Urn Tube
These eco-friendly scattering urn tubes come in an array of attractive designs and make scattering simple, easy, and fuss-free.
Biodegradable Shell Urn for Water Scattering
This shell-shaped scattering urn is handcrafted from biodegradable Grolleg paper clay by an inspired ceramics artist in the Pacific Northwest. The urn is meant to be placed into the ocean, where it will briefly float then, as the urn fills with water, sink to the bottom of the sea where it will biodegrade and slowly disperse the ashes into the waters.
Find more water scattering urns here.
What to Say When Scattering Ashes
This is one of the most common questions we hear about scattering - what do we say? Here are some ideas.
- You are loved, cherished, and deeply missed.
- "Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." Quoted from Alfred Lord Tennyson.
- "To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die." Quoted from Thomas Campbell.
- Favorite Bible verses.
- A simple and heartfelt prayer.
Read more: What to Say When Scattering Ashes