How to Dispose of Cremation Ashes Properly


A lot of planning goes into cremation but many families don’t automatically consider what to do next. What do you do with your loved one’s cremation ashes once they’ve been returned? 

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You can choose places to scatter ashes but this option may not fit everyone’s needs. You may also consider keeping cremated remains at home in an urn or traditional keepsake. Ultimately, you have a lot of options and ways to honor your loved one, so choose what’s right for you. 

Curious about how to dispose of ashes from cremation? Should you dispose of them, keep them, or scatter them? Luckily, you have more options than ever before. In this guide, we’ll share all of your options and the next steps to take right away. 

Can You Dispose of Cremation Ashes?

If you’re wondering what to do with cremation ashes, you can always dispose of them. There is no legal reason you must keep them yourself, no matter whose ashes you have. You can choose between disposing of them, scattering them, keeping them, or even burning them in the ground. 

Ultimately, it comes down to your comfort level. If you don’t wish to keep the ashes in a traditional urn or within your home, you don’t need to. However, it’s a good idea to consider your full range of options before deciding what’s best for you or your family. 

Most importantly, know that you can even legally throw them away or not keep them. You can’t point to a one-size-fits-all solution. 

Legal, Environmental, and Personal Things to Consider

Before we begin explaining how to dispose of cremation ashes, let’s talk about what you should consider. It’s important to understand what you’re doing in order to avoid regret later. 

State and federal laws

Always makes sure you understand state and federal laws. You can have scattering ashes laws explained to learn where you can bury, scatter, or leave human remains. Knowing these before you proceed can help you avoid running into legal trouble. 

Environmental impact

Know the environmental impact of your choice. You can dispose of ashes but doing so can have a negative impact on the environment. Most notably, you cannot always bury them in the ground without any preparation. 

When placed in the soil on or around plants, cremains can harm the plants around them because they contain high amounts of salt. You can mix these ashes with more beneficial nutrients or use an eco-urn instead.

Moral and ethical considerations

Last but not least, consider the moral and ethical implications. If you choose to dispose of someone’s ashes, keep their personal wishes in mind. What did they want you to do with their ashes? If they had no preference, you should feel confident with whatever you choose. Otherwise, follow their requests. 

Steps for Disposing of Unwanted Cremation Ashes

If you’ve decided you don’t want these cremation ashes, there is no reason you can’t dispose of them. Assuming you’ve reviewed local laws and ethical considerations, feel confident following the steps below. 

Step 1: Choose a temporary urn.

First, prepare a temporary urn for the ashes. Because you’ll need to travel with them, have something secure and appropriate for bringing cremains with you. 

If you’re flying with your ashes, make sure you choose something that’s TSA-approved. From there, continue to the next step. 

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Step 2: Determine whether you’ll bury or scatter the ashes.

You have two options when it comes to disposing of unwanted cremation ashes: burial or scattering. If you choose to bury the ashes, you can put them directly into the ground as long as you mind where you place them. 

Note that you shouldn’t bury them near plants, water, or wildlife. You can bury them in an eco-urn or in a more traditional urn. 

If you choose to scatter the ashes, you might wish to use a scattering urn or tube to aid this process. Otherwise, feel free to use anything that works for you. 

Step 3: Choose your location.

One of the most important steps involves choosing a location for your burial or scattering. This can be a meaningful location or anywhere in nature that feels right. Always research the laws in your area before burying or scattering ashes, especially on private property. 

You can almost always bury ashes or scatter ashes on your own land. If you own a home or garden, you can dispose of ashes without much worry about local laws. 

Step 4: Dispose of the ashes.

Last but not least, complete the process by disposing of the ashes. Whether you bury them or scatter them, allow this moment to bring you peace. 

You might wish to share a few words or think about the individual’s legacy while you scatter them. There is no right or wrong way to feel during this process, so give yourself time to experience these emotions. 

Alternatives to Disposing Cremation Ashes

If you’d prefer not to bury or scatter the cremation ashes, you still have other alternatives. These ideas below suit any situation, allowing you to say goodbye in the way that’s right for you. 

Use a traditional urn

First, you always have the option to use a traditional or nontraditional urn to hold onto your loved one’s ashes. You can store these anywhere in your home, whether you want it front and center or out of the way. 

Water burial

You can bury or scatter the ashes in water using a water burial. These biodegradable water urns will slowly scatter cremated ashes into the water, perfect for an ocean or river burial. Because it takes a few minutes to scatter the ashes using these methods, you have time to hold a short ceremony or say a few words. 

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Bury in a cemetery

Many people don’t realize their loved one’s ashes can go into a traditional cemetery. By burying the urn in an allocated space within a cemetery, the family has somewhere they can always return to pay their respects. While not all cemeteries offer this, it’s a great compromise. 

Share with family

Not interested in keeping all of the ashes yourself? Share them with your family. Smaller keepsake urns hold some of the ashes, allowing you to split them between different households. Sharing with your family can offer peace. 

Memorial diamond

For a unique, stunning tribute, turn someone’s ashes into a memorial diamond. Eterneva specializes in memorial diamonds built with each individual legacy in mind. Created using a similar process to nature, these diamonds turn ashes into real diamonds through a pressurized process. 

Memorial stone

Parting stone creates realistic river stones from human and pet ashes, making something solid you can hold in your hand. Memorial stones offer a source of comfort, giving you something permanent to honor your loved one for years to come. This offers a unique alternative to keeping your loved one’s ashes in an urn as a way to return to nature. 

Throw them away

Last but not least, you can always dispose of ashes by simply throwing them away. While it might sound disrespectful, sometimes you don’t wish to keep ashes anymore. Again, there is no obligation to keep them or dispose of them any specific way, especially if a plan wasn’t specifically outlined by the deceased. 

However, it’s still important to be mindful of how you dispose of them. It’s common practice to wrap the urn in a shroud or some form of fabric. This secures them within the urn and also protects the ashes in the trash receptacle. From there, you can dispose of them just as you would anything else. 

What to Do with Cremation Ashes

If you’ve been trusted with a loved one’s cremation ashes, you may find yourself at a loss for what to do with them. You may feel responsibility and even guilt, especially if you don’t wish to keep the ashes in your home. Luckily, you can choose from so many honorable ways to keep your loved one’s ashes close in spirit if you wish. 

Take some time to consider what you’d like to do with your own final resting place when you die. Completing a free, secure end-of-life plan and sharing your wishes can help your family understand your decisions. 

  1. Dyer, Mary H. “Planting In Cremation Ashes.” Gardening Know How.

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