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What is a biodegradable urn for ashes?

by John M. Stuart, MSW

The Memento Biodegradable urn for water burial

By definition Biodegradable urns are organic and capable of decomposing naturally. They are considered safe for the environment. The production of a biodegradable urn employs eco-friendly substances.

Biodegradable urns for ashes are a unique choice, especially for those who want to be remembered for their love and stewardship over planet Earth with all of its magnificent natural wonders. They are considered environmentally safe, and there are many to choose from depending on need and preference. 

What are biodegradable urns made of?

Biodegradable urns are uniquely crafted from eco-friendly materials such as recycled paper, wool fiber, compacted peat, and coconut shells. Eco-friendly urns for ashes made from special biodegradable porcelains and other plant materials are also an option when searching for a sturdy container of various shapes, sizes and designs. Unique urns made from cornstarch give the appearance of conventional urns for ashes. Biodegradable memorial urns are designed to naturally breakdown into the environment without leaving a carbon footprint. 

Types of biodegradable urns:

Biodegradable burial urns are made from materials that naturally break down into the soil. For instance, if we are memorializing someone who once enjoyed  a favorite camping or hiking spot, the cremation urn can be buried in that special place without disturbing the eco-system (be sure to check the laws and rules for the desired location). Many cemeteries now offer scattering gardens where biodegradable urns can either be buried or the cremains scattered in a designated area. Urns for burial allow cremains to be contained in one area without spreading. This complies with certain state and federal ordinances concerning the placement of cremains in certain areas of preference. 

Ashes (cremains) contain natural soil enriching nutrients. When they are returned to the earth, new life regenerates.  Certain biodegradable urns are also crafted out of a special paper embedded with the seeds of a tree or scrub. The theme of life regeneration is brought to mind knowing that the cremation urn degrades into the soil, allowing the seeds to grow into something beautiful and memorable. People may find memorializing with a tree or shrub to be more meaningful than with a grave marker or urn niche. Burial urns for sale made from biodegradable material can be used in a committal ceremony as a reminder of regeneration through death, nature's grand cycle of life. 

Urns for sea burial

Deep water biodegradable urns are designed to float on the surface of the water while dissolving as it gradually sinks, settling to the bottom. In 2012, California passed a law (Bill AB1777) requiring that all urns for ashes buried at sea must be able to break down within four hours. Beautiful crematory urns carved from Himalayan rock salt or a hand painted memorial urns shaped like a sea shell are crafted out of biodegradable paper, making for a most memorable committal ceremony at sea. Most of these eco-friendly memorial urns meet California's criteria for sea burial, breaking down within four hours.

Cremation urns for scattering ashes

Scattering crematory urns are often made from biodegradable materials. These ash urns are intended for storing cremains temporarily until they are scattered.  Some of these cremation urns look like a paperboard tube that opens easily from the top. These scattering tubes can be elaborately painted, transforming them into personalized urns. When finished they can be buried or discarded without environmental harm.

Traveling with biodegradable urns

In addition to the eco-friendly benefits of these cremation urns for ashes, they also make traveling with the cremains easier. Because of the soluble materials biodegradable urns are made of, the precious contents are more easily identifiable when being X-rayed by airport security without having to be opened or removed from the carry-on baggage. Biodegradable urns meet the TSA traveling safety guidelines.

Biodegradable urns are growing in popularity and are providing people some unique and socially conscious ways for honoring their loved ones. We only see this category of cremation urn growing.

John Michael Stuart, MSW has been a social worker since 1997. He has worked in nursing home, hospice and home health settings, including one of the nation's largest Social HMO demonstration projects where he coordinated care between physicians, patients and their families. John has had cerebral palsy since birth and has authored Perfect Circles, Redefining  Perfection. He is also a public speaker and currently works as a home health social worker in Las Vegas.