8 Different Types of Biodegradable Urns for Water Burials


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With cremation becoming more common, it’s no wonder people are looking for new ways to honor the ashes of their loved ones. While many choose to keep the ashes in an urn someplace safe as a form of remembrance, others opt to scatter their loved one’s ashes. 

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One of the classic places to scatter someone’s ashes is at sea. However, a water burial requires a few extra steps than a traditional scattering of ashes ceremony. Many choose to use a biodegradable urn specifically designed for water burials. 

While this sounds straightforward, there are many different types of biodegradable urns. Some are designed for scattering quickly, while others rest to the depths below for a slower release over time. In this guide, we’ll explore the different types of biodegradable urns for water burials to determine which is right for your needs. 

Tip: Keep in mind that you can bury some ashes at sea and hold onto some of the ashes, too. It only takes a small amount of ashes to create a unique cremation diamond with a service like Eterneva

What’s a Biodegradable Urn for a Water Burial?

As the name implies, a biodegradable urn for a water burial is a type of eco-friendly, natural urn that’s meant to decompose naturally. These are typically made of organic materials that are safe for the environment. 

They contain a small, secure compartment for ashes. Once put into the water, the biodegradable urns for ashes decompose either slowly or quickly, depending on the material. They’re designed specifically to break down into water naturally without harming marine life, the waterways, or leaving a carbon footprint. 

While it’s possible to scatter ashes directly into the water by hand, this might not be the type of ceremony the family wants to have. A biodegradable urn not only looks great, but it controls the speed of the ashes scattering into the water. Some can take hours, days, or longer to complete this process. This allows the family to host a memorial during this time.

There are two main types of water urns used for these ceremonies. The first type are designed to float. These float for a short period of time, usually enough for a short ceremony. After this, they sink to the bottom and break down over time. The other type sinks immediately. 

» MORE: Online obituary that is 100% free. Honor a loved one beyond a newspaper.

Popular Types of Urns for Water Burials

If you’re choosing a water burial for yourself or a loved one, there are several different types of biodegradable urns to choose from. All of these biodegrade over time, though some float for longer than others. Once you know what type of ceremony you plan to have, it’s time to choose the right urn to suit this need. 

1. Traditional urn

The most common type of water urn is a traditional biodegradable urn. They appear similar to urns you might keep in your home, but they’re made of natural materials that dissolve over time in the water. These typically sink very quickly and rest on the bottom of the ocean, lake, river, etc.

2. Floating ball

For an urn that’s designed to float, a floating ball urn is a good choice. As the name implies, this is an urn created in the shape of a ball. Made of materials like paper, bamboo, cardboard, and so on, it floats for a short time before ultimately dissolving and scattering the ashes. 

3. Boat urn

A fun play on the traditional design is a boat urn. Since these are designed to be set adrift, using an urn shaped like a boat can be a great way to honor someone who loved spending time at sea. These float for a short while before sinking into the water. 

» MORE: An online memorial is a perfect ending to honor and celebrate someone's life. Create one for free.

4. Rock salt urn 

A natural choice is a rock salt urn. These often resemble traditional urns, but they’re created of rock salt. They take a long time to dissolve, yet a very eco-friendly and beautiful choice. 

5. Shell urns

A shell urn is created to look like a shell you might find at the seaside. Though not made of actual shell, these are a gorgeous tribute to someone who had a real passion and appreciation for the beach. These are usually designed to sink to deep water quickly. 

6. Sand urn

Sand urns are created using a mold of sand. Because sand dissolves quickly in water, this is ideal for a very quick, beautiful ashes ceremony at sea. This is also an affordable option, and you can make a sand urn yourself with the right mold. 

7. Turtle or fish urn

For those who always loved marine life, an urn shaped like a turtle, fish, or other marine creature is a great way to honor their legacy. These are usually designed to float for a short time, creating a touching tribute for a memorial service at sea. 

You could also create a custom, 3D-printed turtle or fish urn with Foreverence. These aren't biodegradable, however, but meant to be displayed in a place of honor. 

» MORE: Grief can be lonely. Create space for your community to share memories and tributes with a free online memorial from Cake.

8. Floating flower urns

Many people choose to go the traditional route by including flowers in their water burial. There are actually floating urns that resemble flowers, usually made with paper or other natural materials. From looking like a floating lily to an eco-friendly floral wreath, these are a beautiful symbol for someone’s carefree, wandering nature. 

How to Use a Biodegradable Urn for Water Burials

It’s important to recognize how these urns are different from traditional urns intended to stay in your home or be buried in the ground. Those created specifically for ground burials aren’t designed to dissolve in water. While they might break down, it could take a long time and not be safe for marine life. 

Aside from choosing the right biodegradable urn specifically for water burials, you’ll want to make sure you’re using it properly and safely. The last thing you want is a malfunction with the ashes or container itself. 

While many choose water cremations because of how much urns cost, it’s still important to pay close attention to these steps below:

  • Check local laws: The first step is to always check with local laws about how to spread ashes safely in waterways. This will depend on whether you use public vs. private property.
  • Ceremony: If you choose to have a ceremony with the scattering of the ashes, be sure to choose a biodegradable urn designed to float for a few minutes or a short while to ensure it doesn’t immediately sink. 
  • Secure the ashes: Because it can be windy on the water, you’ll want the ashes secured safely inside the urn. Do this before leaving the shore. Most biodegradable urns include a water-soluble bag. The ashes are placed inside and attached to the urn in some manner. 
  • Plan your trip: The urn will need to be related away from the shore in most cases. You can do this by plane or boat, depending on the type of waterway. 

Where Can You Have a Water Burial?

It’s important to note that you can’t have a water burial anywhere without first checking local laws. Like with all burials, you’ll need to ensure it’s safe and legal to release the ashes in this place. Many wrongly assume that using a biodegradable water urn makes this possible since there’s no trace of the urn or environmental damage. In reality, there are still rules to be followed. 

In general, it’s unlikely you’ll be prosecuted for breaking any ashes laws as long as you’re away from sensitive or populated areas. However, nobody wants to face legal action when trying to hold an emotional memorial. 

A good rule of thumb is to always ask. This is especially true if you’re scattering ashes on private property, like on a private lake, pond, or river. While scattering ashes at sea is allowed, you’ll still need to follow the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) laws:

  • You must scatter ashes three nautical miles from land or more
  • You may only use biodegradable urns that don’t harm the marine environment
  • If flowers or wreaths are also used, these must also be biodegradable
  • The burial must be reported to the EPA within 30 days
  • This does not apply to pet ashes unless a special permit is acquired

For local lakes, rivers, and ponds, you’ll need to check with local regulations. These are not subject to federal regulations and often have their own rules. In most cases, using a biodegradable water urn is permitted as long as it is a specific distance from the shore. 

Release Ashes at Sea

Water burials are a source of peace and comfort for many. For those who loved the sea and the freedom it represents, it makes a lot of practical and metaphorical sense to release these ashes on the water. With the help of a biodegradable urn for water, this is a touching tribute. 

If you’re planning a water burial for your loved one’s ashes, look no further than this list of specially designed urns for ashes above. You’ll want to use something that’s safe, eco-friendly, and designed with your ceremony in mind. Luckily, that’s never been easier. 

If you're looking for more ideas for urns for ashes, read our guides on finding urns for mom and urns for dad.


  1. “Burial at Sea.” The United States Environmental Protection Agency. EPA.gov

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