How to scatter ashes

Cremations are becoming increasingly popular across the UK and the ceremony often continues beyond the service, such as through the spreading or scattering of their loved one’s ashes.

Many people who choose to do this have never done so before, so it is natural for them to have questions about how to proceed. For instance, there are things like wind speed, local laws and members of the public to think about.

Here are some important considerations to take into account.

Checking laws and regulations

Ashes can be spread over any land you like so long as you have the landowner’s permission, whilst no permission is needed for distributing them in the sea or most rivers. However, there are environmental regulations that shouldn’t be ignored.

For instance, everything released into the environment must be biodegradable, meaning any plastic or metal containers – or tributes – should be removed from the ashes and taken home. It is possible to use biodegradable urns, which your Co-op Funeral Director will be able to advise you on.

Even then, ashes may contain damaging minerals to some plant life, particularly those growing around mountaintops, so seek advice from local environmental authorities if you’re unsure.

You might also be turned away if a river is used for drinking water somewhere downstream, so check the surrounding area ahead of time.

Avoiding the crowds

Beautiful and famous vistas can make for breath-taking send-offs but they will inevitably be busy. It’s worth asking the landowner if some time can be privately reserved for your gathering but this isn’t always possible, especially in public places.

You can minimise the issue by carrying out the scattering in off-peak hours and during the week, although schedules can be difficult to match with work and school commitments.

Members of the public will usually be incredibly courteous and aware when a scattering is being carried out.

Dispersing ashes properly

Ashes compact well in containers and more will come out than you think, so take a few precautions before releasing them.

Double-check attendees are facing downwind and slowly disperse the ashes from a low height – usually below the waist. Refrain from releasing them all at once. Or consider using a biodegradable urn.

Wind can be too weak to carry ashes far, or may be too fast to let you reflect on the moment. If you feel it would be better to move position, do so. Bringing a scattering tube can also help, which we can help with. Ultimately, if conditions aren’t as you’d like to remember them, such as there being poor weather, don’t be afraid to reschedule or wait until conditions match your expectations.

Further information

If you have any questions about scattering ashes, please do not hesitate to speak to one of our Co-op Funeral Directors.