Background

In the Netherlands approximately 150.000 people decease annually, about 100.000 of them are cremated. The main reasons why cremation is getting more and more popular are the high cost of funeral expenses and the obligation to maintain the tombstone and grave monument. After the cremation more than 90% of the relatives take the ash homewards, the others decide to scatter the ash near the crematorium. In the years after the cremation some relatives still decide to scatter the ash above land or in the sea, or bury the ash in an urn in natural burial ground, just simply because they do not know what to do with the urn and the ash. An unknown number of the relatives, probably a larger group than we know, keeps the ash at home. From an emotional point of view they are not able to scatter the ash because they judge the process of scattering as an irreversible and definitive event. Finally, scattering of ash is not environmental friendly. Although there is no specific law that forbids the scattering, it is technically illegal to put the ashes on someone else’s land or in rivers without the owner’s permission. In some countries the Environmental Protection Agencies published a policy about the scattering of ashes to protect the environment. There is no evidence that the disposal of human ashes in rivers and streams can have a negative impact on the environment; however, the non-biodegradable items like metal and rich mineral concentrations in cremated remains can also have a bad effect on the soils and eventually on the plants. Therefore it is advised not to dump ashes on mountain tops, sport fields or public gardens, where ashes can affect fresh plant life. Although scattering at sea is the fastest way to the greatest dispersal, it doesn’t provide the opportunity to have a memorial place which you can visit easily.