A question we often get at the funeral home is “What are the rules and regulations with regards to scattering ashes after cremation?”
Here is the answer, at least in the State of Wisconsin.
In Wisconsin, state law permits you to place cremated remains in a grave, niche, or crypt — or to dispose of them in “any other lawful manner” as long as the remains have been reduced to a particle size of one-eighth of an inch or less. (Wisconsin Statutes § 440.80.)
Wisconsin state law does not restrict how or where you may scatter ashes. If you wish to do so, you have many options. 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.
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 private land, it is wise to obtain 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. As with local or state 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 at 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. The EPA does not permit scattering at beaches or in wading pools by the sea. 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 be legally required to obtain a permit from the state agency that manages the waterway.
For more information, see Burial of Human Remains at Sea on the EPA website.
Scattering ashes by air.
While there are no state laws on the matter, 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.