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Is It Illegal to Spread Ashes?

Spreading ashes

For many people, spreading the ashes of their cremated loved ones offers peace and a sense of closure. It’s a symbolic act of letting go and moving on with the memories of beloved family members and friends. But where is it ok and legal to spread their ashes? 

In this article, we answer that question and provide additional information and guidelines, focusing on three countries: the US, Canada, and the UK. 

The Quick Answer 

In most cases, it’s perfectly legal to scatter a person’s ashes anywhere as long as you obtain permission from the owner (if done on private property) or the local, state, or federal/provincial government. 

Different regions have similar but separate laws on scattering ashes, so proceed cautiously when planning. As part of your planning, check local, state, or provincial laws and familiarize yourself with any laws that may apply to your plan to spread ashes. 

In the US 

In most US states, you can spread ashes over land on private property with the permission of the owner. You can also do it on public land after obtaining permission from the land’s governing agency. 

In Texas, a person may spread ashes over uninhabited public land, over the sea or a waterway, or on the property of a consenting owner. Unless the urn is biodegradable, you should remove the ashes from the container before spreading them. 

On the other hand, California laws only allow the practice in a cemetery scattering garden. Ashes may also be placed in a mausoleum or columbarium, stored at home, buried in a cemetery, or stored in religious structures (churches, etc). 

If you want to spread ashes over water, you should do it at least three nautical miles from land, according to the Federal Clean Water Act. For inland water burial, you must obtain a permit from the waterway’s managing state agency. You can’t scatter ashes on beaches or wading pools. 

Most US states don’t prohibit scattering ashes by air. However, federal law prohibits dropping any objects that might injure people or damage property. The ashes aren’t hazardous, but they should be removed from the container for obvious safety reasons. 

In Canada

Canada doesn’t have many restrictions when it comes to scattering ashes. The general guidelines are similar to those above. You can spread ashes: 

  • On private property of your family
  • On someone else’s private property with permission
  • On Crown lands, such as conservation areas and federal/provincial parks 
  • In oceans, rivers, and lakes managed by the federal or provincial government 

Some municipalities have specific restrictions, so it’s best to check with your city or town to ensure you comply with local rules. 


Canadian provinces have scattering rules consistent with the above rules. In Ontario, you can scatter ashes on your private land, others’ land with permission, and in provincial parks and waterways including the Great Lakes. 

Nova Scotia 

The same is true for Nova Scotia, though the provincial government advises people to check municipal bylaws and avoid spreading ashes near watercourses used for drinking water. 


In Saskatchewan, the scattering must be in an approved cemetery; records of the process are required. The law also prohibits spreading ashes near water treatment facilities, intakes, or places where recreational water activities occur. 


The same guidelines mostly apply in the case of Quebec. However, in this province, you can scatter ashes in places where they “may constitute a nuisance or in a manner that fails to respect the dignity of the deceased person,” according to Article 71 of the Funeral Operations Act


Before 2019, the Alberta provincial government prohibited scattering ashes in the waters of Banff and Jasper national parks. On top of that, people were required to obtain permission from the local government to scatter ashes over rivers and lakes in wilderness and forest areas like Kananaskis and Fish Creek. These restrictions have already been lifted. 

In the UK

You can scatter ashes almost anywhere in the UK from parks to beaches to sports stadiums. Most property owners are fine with scattering ashes on their land but contact them first to get permission. 

On Private Land

You can freely scatter ashes on your own private land. However, if you want to scatter ashes on other private lands — parks, meadows, and country walk — contact the landowner first. 

In a Cemetery 

Cemeteries are a common choice for many UK families. If you own exclusive rights to a burial place, you can scatter ashes without asking for permission. However, if your rights over the burial site have expired, contact the cemetery owner first and seek permission first. 

On a Mountain or Hill 

Mountains, hills, and other natural beauty spots are also popular among families. It’s best to scatter ashes on them fairly low to make revisiting the area easier. If the place is within private property, seek permission from the owner first. 

At Sea or On a River 

Though you don’t need permission to spread ashes over water, you should follow these guidelines from the Environment Agency: 

  • The location shouldn’t be near any buildings or places where people bathe or fish.
  • The location should be over 1 kilometer upstream of places where water is pumped or collected.
  • The ashes should be placed close to the water surface. Avoid windy days to avoid affecting people working or living nearby. 
  • Avoid placing anything else with the ashes in the water, such as wreaths, containers, or personal items. 

Be sure to check the complete Environment Agency guidelines here. 

On a Beach 

Most UK beaches allow families to scatter ashes across the sand or rocks. However, get in touch with the beach owner first. You can find contact details on beach websites. The usual guideline applies: choose a quiet time so that the ashes don’t affect anyone sunbathing or swimming. 

At a Stadium

You can spread your loved one’s ashes at their favorite sports team’s stadium. Some teams have special days where they allow people to scatter ashes directly onto the pitch’s stadium. Contact the team through their phone numbers usually found on their websites.

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