What Can I Do with the Ashes?

There are no New Jersey 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. Cremation renders ashes harmless, so there is no public health risk involved in scattering ashes. Use common sense and refrain from scattering ashes in places where they would be obvious to others.

Scattering ashes in an established scattering garden.

Many cemeteries provide gardens for scattering ashes. If you’re interested, ask the cemetery for more information. Many religious organizations offer this option as well, and generally for a much lower charge (if any) than a cemetery.

Scattering ashes on private land.

You are allowed to scatter ashes on your own private property. If you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s land, it’s wise to get permission from the landowner.

Scattering ashes on public land.

You may wish to check both city and county regulations and zoning rules before scattering ashes on local public land, such as in a city park. However, many people simply proceed as they wish, letting their best judgment be their guide.

Scattering ashes on federal land.

Officially, you should request permission before scattering ashes on federal land. However, you will probably encounter no resistance if you conduct the scattering ceremony quietly and keep the ashes well away from trails, roads, facilities, and waterways. You can find guidelines for scattering ashes on the websites for some national parks. For more information, start with the website of the National Park Service.

Scattering ashes at sea.

The EPA requires that cremated remains be scattered at least three nautical miles from land. And, they would like you to let them know what you’ve done within 30 days of scattering ashes at sea here. However, they are aware that the overwhelming majority of people do not do this.

Scattering ashes in inland waters, which includes beaches, pools by the sea, rivers and lakes, falls under the Clean Water Act and you may be legally required to obtain a permit from the appropriate state agency. The national Funeral Consumers Alliance says that these laws are designed to protect waterways from pollution and because cremated human remains are not a health hazard, the laws are not usually enforced in cases of ash dispersal.

Read more here.

For more information see Burial of Human Remains at Sea on the EPA website.

Scattering ashes by air.

There are no state laws on the matter, but federal law prohibits dropping objects that might cause harm to people or property. The U.S. government does not consider cremains to be hazardous material; all should be well so long as you remove the ashes from their container before scattering.

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