When a loved one makes the request that their bodies are cremated and their ashes be scattered at sea, many people choose to do so by purchasing a biodegradable urn (sometimes called a scattering urn) and dropping the urn in its entirety into the water. This keeps the ceremony around spreading the cremains slightly cleaner than it can be when a family member attempts to scatter the cremains by hand.
Biodegradable urns are used because they leave no trace one once they degrade back into the sea floor. The cremains are dispersed naturally through the current and the urn eventually disappears completely.
However, California has had to sign a new law into place in order to protect their beachgoers from partially degraded or completely intact urns that were washing ashore on beaches. The new law specifies that all biodegradable urns that are used for sea burials must break down completely in less than four hours to ensure that the ashes are properly scattered and that no urn remains turn up on beaches.
Assemblywoman Fiona Ma said of the bill, “[It] will protect the remains of loved ones from being stranded in a vulnerable container and most importantly, it will ensure that they are peacefully laid to rest in a manner that is not only lawful, but safe for the environment.”
This bill brings home the point that it’s important to make sure that you purchase a biodegradable urn whenever you will be burying your loved one’s cremains at sea. While some urns take longer than four hours to degrade, most will break down in a manner of days, so make certain that you have the scattering ceremony far enough away from the coastline to ensure enough time for the urn to biodegrade.