Over fifty percent of the people surveyed in the 2018 NFDA Consumer Awareness and Preferences Survey said they would prefer for their cremated remains to be scattered in sentimental places. Seventeen percent said they wanted to be buried or interred at a cemetery, and seven percent reported to be kept in an urn at home. We thought it would be helpful to give our customers some guidelines according to the Texas Health & Safety Code #716.304.
- Ashes may be stored in a crypt, niche, grave, or container at home. If you wish to scatter ashes, Texas law allows you to do so over “uninhabited public land, over a public waterway or sea, or on the private property of a consenting owner.” Unless the container is biodegradable, you must remove the ashes from the container before scattering them.
- 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.
Here are some additional suggestions for scattering ashes offered by legal experts at Nolo:
- Scattering ashes in an established scattering garden. Many cemeteries provide gardens for scattering ashes. If you’re interested, ask the cemetery for more information.
- Scattering ashes on private land. You are allowed to scatter ashes on your private property. As noted above, if you want to scatter ashes on someone else’s private land, state law requires you to get permission from the landowner.
- Scattering ashes on public property. You may wish to check both city and county regulations and zoning rules before scattering ashes on local public ground, such as in a city park. However, many people proceed as they wish, letting their best judgment be their guide.
- Scattering ashes on federal land. Officially, it would be better if you requested 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, begin your search on the website of the National Park Service.
- Scattering ashes at sea. The federal Clean Water Act requires that cremated remains be scattered at least three nautical miles from land. Like state law, federal rules require that non-biodegradable containers be disposed of separately. The EPA does not permit scattering at beaches or in wading pools by the sea. Finally, you must notify the EPA within 30 days of scattering ashes at sea.
- The Clean Water Act also governs scattering in inland waters such as rivers or lakes. For inland water burial, you may need a permit from the state agency that manages the waterway.
- For more information, including contact information for the EPA representative in Texas, see Burial of Human Remains at Sea on the EPA website.
- Scattering ashes by air. Federal aviation laws prohibit dropping any 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.
To learn about the federal Funeral Rule, which protects consumers in all states, visit the website of the Federal Trade Commission.
For more information about funeral laws in Texas, see Making Funeral Arrangements in Texas.