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How Do I Scatter the Ashes of a Loved One? 

Published: April 15, 2023

There are many options for final disposition following the cremation of a loved one—and scattering has become one of the most popular methods. Because cremation renders ashes harmless there is no public health risk involved in scattering ashes, but keep in mind that there may be laws or limitations to public or private sites where scattering can occur. You may decide to keep some of your loved one’s remains as well, to be shared with family members as a lasting tribute. Scattering can also be combined with memorialization, such as funeral services, visitation or scattering ceremonies.

There are several methods of scattering ashes. If throwing cremated remains by hand, be sure to check the wind direction before scattering into the air or a body of water. Another option is called trenching. Dig a small trench in the location of your choice, place the remains or a biodegradable urn containing the ashes in the trench, and cover with soil. Each family member can take turns covering the remains. Raking is another technique. Pour the remains on the surface of the soil and use a rake to mix the ashes and soil together.

Scattering Ashes

In New York, there are no state laws controlling where you may keep or scatter ashes. Ashes may be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home. If you wish to scatter ashes, you have many options, but use common sense and refrain from scattering ashes in places where they would be obvious to others. 

Many cemeteries provide established gardens for scattering ashes. If you want to scatter cremated remains on private land, you must get permission from the landowner if it is not your property.

For scattering ashes on public land, such as a park, you might want to check with the city or county for any regulations first. Just use your best judgment and don’t scatter ashes where it might be obvious or intrusive to others.

There are guidelines for scattering ashes in some national parks and many require prior permission, such as Yosemite. For more information, visit the website of the National Park Service and search for scattering ashes.

The federal Clean Water Act requires that scattering cremated remains at sea be at least three nautical miles from land and it is not permitted on beaches. And you must notify the United States Environmental Protection Agency within 30 days of scattering ashes at sea. For more information, visit the EPA website.

Scattering ashes by air should be fine if they are removed from the container. Since the U.S. government does not consider cremains to be hazardous material, there is no legal obstruction to scattering ashes from an airplane or hot air balloon. 

Scattering Ceremonies

Some families might pick a location that was special to the person and hold a scattering ceremony there, such as a golf course or favorite fishing spot. Scattering ceremonies can be conducted at any place that is meaningful, as long as local regulations permit. The ceremony can be as formal or informal as you prefer. 

You may also wish to check out our selection of cremation urns prior to making plans for your ceremony. Should you need advice on how to design a meaningful ceremony, feel free to call us.

We appreciate you reading our blog. You can contact Raynor & D’Andrea Funeral Home at 1-800-737-0017. Or you can drop us a message here.

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