Biodegradable urns provide a wonderful way to repurpose a loved one’s ashes in a meaningful tribute – while staying eco-friendly. Throughout Europe, people are embracing sustainable, environmentally friendly ways to approach life milestones, including end-of-life decisions. With the production of cremation urns for ashes that are biodegradable, people can finally have a way to honor their loved one’s memory without contributing to excess waste and land limitations.
However, the legality of burying biodegradable urns is not universal. Each European country’s laws differ when it comes to biodegradable urns, including where and how they can be planted. This article provides an overview of the laws in major European countries where biodegradable urns are becoming more popular.
Why Choose Biodegradable Urns over Scattering Ashes
Returning the body to the land is rife with symbolism, with centuries of traditions approaching this topic in different ways. While many people in the modern era have turned to cremation, those who aren’t interested in keeping urns at home often choose to scatter ashes on private land or in public wildlife areas where allowed and legal.
The problem with scattering ashes is that – though it’s a beautiful gesture in the moment – it’s difficult to return to the space where ashes were scattered and feel the same connection. People thrive on landmarks that can trigger memories and create a special bond.
Biodegradable urns are a great solution for this disconnection. Instead of scattering the ashes, the cremated remains are placed in an eco-friendly, biodegradable urn that can be planted in a specific place. This place can be marked with a living tree or flowers to further emphasize the circle of life, as the cremated ashes contribute to the growth of a new living thing. As loved ones look at the beauty of the growing tree or flowers, they can feel a stronger connection with those who have passed away.
Laws in Europe about Biodegradable Urns
Where can I bury a biodegradable urn in Europe? This is one of the most common questions! The laws differ from country to country, and in some places the laws have not yet been defined. In fact, many districts consider biodegradable urn laws similar to those that address the scattering of ashes, so the laws remain similar.
Take a look at the laws in Europe about burying biodegradable urns:
UK Laws on Biodegradable Urns
It is becoming more popular for people living in the United Kingdom to seek out biodegradable urns for ashes.
Private Land in the UK – Burying ashes in biodegradable urns is legal on private property so long as permission is provided by the landowner prior to the burial. It is strongly recommended to keep all records concerning the burial with the deed of the property so that location of the biodegradable urn is provided on paper if the property transfers to a new owner down the line.
Public Land in the UK – In the UK, common land does, in fact, still belong to someone. Just because a piece of property is open to the public does not mean that the public has full rights to do as they wish, especially when it comes to burying a biodegradable urn containing ashes. Many green spaces, including those overseen by the Woodland Trust, the National Trust, and UK National Parks, have been known to allow burial for biodegradable urns, but permission must always be sought and confirmed before any preparations are made. These organizations may also have certain guidelines to adhere to, so always consult them before making arrangements.
Swiss Laws on Biodegradable Urns
Cremation is quite popular in Switzerland. Compared with the rest of the Europe, Swiss laws tend to be more accepting and lenient when it comes to burying biodegradable urns and scattering ashes.
Private Land in Switzerland – Like the UK, burying biodegradable urns is legal on private land so long as permission is granted by the property owner.
Public Land in Switzerland – Disposing of human remains, including cremated ashes, is restricted on public land in Switzerland if it is done for commercial or professional reasons. However, it seems that Swiss laws do allow the burial of biodegradable urns so long as it is a personal endeavor.
French Laws on Biodegradable Urns
The laws on burying biodegradable urns tend to be slightly more restrictive in France.
Private Land in France – Since a new law came into effect in 2008, it is no longer legal to bury urns with cremated remains on private property in France, though the law itself is not quite as explicit to address biodegradable urns.
Public Land in France – Burying a fully biodegradable urn with cremated ashes is legal in some public areas with the permission and oversight of local authorities. The Ministry of Territorial Cohesion and Relations with Local Authorities has a guidebook with recommendations for burying biodegradable urns. In addition, there are some ‘green cemeteries’ that may accept biodegradable urns, including Cimietère Natural de Souché in Niort, the Arbas ash cemetery in the Haut Garonne, the Arbres de Mémoire park in the Loire, and the Jardins de Mémoire in Brittany. Always check with these entities directly before making plans, as specific rules about biodegradable urn burial are continuously developing.
German Laws on Biodegradable Urns
Of all the European countries with rules about cremation, Germany tends to be relatively stricter than others.
Private and Public Land in Germany – According to German law, human remains must be buried in a cemetery, and burial of biodegradable urns is not deemed legal otherwise, for both private and public land.
Dutch Laws on Biodegradable Urns
Unlike Germany, there are many options for people to consider in the Netherlands.
Private Land in the Netherlands – Burial of biodegradable urns is permissible on private property as long as permission is granted from the landowner.
Keeping urns at home is also allowed in The Nethelands. See our Handmade our for ashes portfolio.
Public Land in the Netherlands – Laws in the Netherlands tend to be more flexible than in Germany, but permission is a key component of legality here. The entities that oversee public lakes and woodlands (the Staatsbosheer and the Rijkswaterstaat) may grant permission to bury ashes or biodegradable urns, but they must be consulted in advance. There are also many green cemeteries in the Netherlands, which can accommodate the burial of biodegradable urns in a natural, park-like setting.
Spanish Laws on Biodegradable Urns
Spain is perhaps one of the most progressive and accepting European countries to accommodate the burial of biodegradable urns.
Private Land in Spain – It is legal to bury ashes in biodegradable urns on private property in Spain so long as permission is granted by the landowner.
Public Land in Spain – So long as the urn is completely biodegradable, burying ashes in an eco-friendly vessel is allowed, with the exception of streets, parks, and other high-traffic public spaces. With that said, it is very important for the urn to be entirely biodegradable – if it isn’t, burial can be considered an uncivil act that contributes to waste and environmental pollution. Securing a 100% biodegradable urn is essential to abide by Spanish laws.
Italian Laws on Biodegradable Urns
Unlike other European countries, Italian laws are very localized and may vary from county to county.
Private Land in Italy – Some areas may allow the burial of biodegradable urns, but this is a decision that must be made by the local Registrar. Always consult the local authorities for up-to-date information in your region of Italy.
Public Land in Italy – Unfortunately, the disposal of ashes in biodegradable urns is not yet allowed in most public land areas.
Portuguese Laws on Biodegradable Urns
Portuguese law is quite accepting and flexible compared to other, stricter European countries. With that said, some of the laws are ambiguous and open to interpretation, meaning it’s always best to clarify the laws with local authorities before making memorial plans.
Private Land in Portugal – There are no laws explicitly forbidding the burial of biodegradable urns on private property in Portugal. With that said, local jurisdictions are constantly changing and adapting their rules, so check with the authorities in your area before making final arrangements.
Public Land in Portugal – Again, no specific laws could be found addressing biodegradable urns on public land. However, that does not mean that it is considered acceptable or legal in all areas. Always check to see if there are certain cinerary parks or green cemeteries in your region of Portugal to have up-to-date information about the developing laws for biodegradable urn burials.
Next Step: Confirming the European Laws in Your Region
As stated, biodegradable urns are a fairly new development in burial traditions, and not all areas have drafted laws to specifically address how, when, and where biodegradable urns are considered acceptable and legal. Some of these laws are simply interpretations based on existing rules for scattering ashes.
No matter where you are located in Europe, always confirm the laws and regulations with your local authorities before planning a memorial service for your loved one. Rules are constantly changing, so there’s no guarantee that the guidelines covered in this article are complete, accurate, or up to date without flaw or omission. Checking with your local authorities is always the best bet to prepare for a meaningful, safe, and legal plan to bury a biodegradable urn and honor your loved one.