Laws Regulating the Scattering of Cremated Ashes
Generally speaking, there are no overall governing bodies that regulate the spreading of ashes, nor are there health, environmental or safety issues to consider. However, if you are going to conduct your ceremony on city, town, or state land, the appropriate bylaws should be followed. (Common sense would dictate that for private land, you would obtain permission from the landowner.)
Scattering at Sea – Many people choose to scatter ashes on a boat at sea, attended by friends and family. In inland waters, this is regulated by the Clean Water Act and a permit is required from the governing state agency. The ashes must be taken three miles offshore into international waters before they can be released.
Columbariums – Dating back to the Roman era, a columbarium is a place for public storage of cremation urns. A columbarium can either be free-standing, part of a mausoleum, or built into a church structure.
Memorial Gardens – Gaining popularity in recent years, memorial gardens allow communities and churches to create beautiful burial grounds with very few applicable regulations.
Alternative and Non-Traditional Options
In a more unusual ceremony, one of the employees here at our funeral home participated in a scattering service as part of a backcountry ski trip; 27 of the deceased’s closest friends skinned up a mountain, scattered the ashes on the summit (in a designated, permitted area), and skied down the peak together as a group.
For space and science fiction buffs, companies like Celestis will send a lipstick-sized container of ashes into space. Four levels of service offer a space flight, an orbit around the earth, a launch to the moon, or a launch into deep space.
Another non-traditional option is to become part of an undersea reef; Eternal Reefs creates a cast of the cremated remains in concrete, then places them in undersea locations, creating new marine habitats for fish and other sea life.
With the cremation rate in the United States on a steep incline, companies have reacted with new offerings such as scattering cremated remains in holy lands, ancestral lands, and just about anywhere else. Private yacht charters will scatter off the Hawaiian, Carribbean or Cape Cod Coast (or any other body of water), and private plane companies are available for charter that will scatter nearly anywhere in the United States. As the cremation rate continues to rise, new opportunities and ideas for ceremonies to spread cremated remains are sure to continue in the near future.
Phaneuf Funeral Homes and Crematorium has served the public since 1906. We are the largest provider of funeral services in the state, and we operate funeral homes in Manchester, NH, Littleton, NH, Concord, NH and Brattleboro, VT, two crematories, two non-denominational chapels, and a cremation society.
I’ve always wondered about different options for spreading ashes. I didn’t know that you could have it done in the ocean! It would be nice knowing that my body is helping an ecosystem form.