With the rise in cremation (mainly due to lower cremation costs, families that are less traditional, among other reasons) and a population that is more eco-conscious, more and more biodegradable urns are being introduced each year. With this growing trend, many people wonder how long biodegradable urns last. This is a common question fielded by funeral directors and something that can be important for a family to know. In this blog, we’ve highlighted a few of the most common types of biodegradable urns and the length of time it takes them to biodegrade.
Biodegradable Burial Urns
Most biodegradable urns available on the market today can be buried and only start to biodegrade once they are buried or if they are exposed to moisture or soil. Therefore, if you order a burial urn and don’t plan on using it for a while, it is recommended to keep it in a dry place inside and out of the elements.
Many biodegradable burial urns are made from bamboo or wood. The rate of degradation for these urns will range from 1 year to 20 years after being buried. The wide range is given because the speed of having wood urns biodegrade depends on the soil conditions where it is buried, type of wood, thickness of the wood, if there was any type of finish applied, and if there were any glues used in its production.
An example of a biodegradable burial urn that’s growing in popularity is called the Eco Burial Urn. This attractive and unique urn is made from only bamboo, a sustainable resource, and will not biodegrade until it is placed in the ground. Therefore, it can also be used as a traditional urn to hold cremated remains. However, once it is buried in the ground and is exposed to soil and moisture, the bamboo will start to biodegrade in a short time and within 1 year to 18 months.
Biodegradable Tree Urns
Another type of a biodegradable urn that’s growing in popularity is called The Living Urn. This special biodegradable urn is designed to grow a tree memorial and is made from recycled plant materials. Like the Eco Burial Urn, The Living Urn is strong and rigid above ground and will not biodegrade unless it is planted in the ground. Therefore, families can store ashes in The Living Urn for however long they prefer before planting - whether it is weeks or years. If you order a Living Urn and don’t plan on planting for a while, you can keep it indoors or in a garage or basement (anywhere out of the elements). Once the Living Urn is placed in the ground, and is exposed to soil and moisture, The Living Urn will soften immediately and rapidly biodegrade to allow the roots of the tree planted with it to grow freely and unimpeded.
Biodegradable Water Urns
As the cremation rate has surged in recent years, so has the number of people looking to do burials at sea or water burials. This can include scattering ashes in the air so they fall into the water, or using a special water urn specifically designed for a water burial. Biodegradable water urns are typically either made from paper or recycled plant materials and break down anywhere from 1 to 30 minutes depending on the urn, how it’s being used, and the water conditions.
A new water urn that is growing in popularity is called the Eco Water Urn. This patent pending urn floats like a buoy and, once in the water, the bottom of the urn will give way and free the cremated remains into the water within 1 to 3 minutes allowing the ashes to gracefully disperse into the water. In addition, it comes packaged in a beautiful and unique bamboo cylinder that will protect the water urn from the elements and as it’s transported to the special place where the water burial will be performed.
Another urn designed to scatter ashes in a body of water is the ice urn. This unique patented urn made from ice is made entirely from ice and breaks down and spreads a loved one's ashes in 5 to 15 minutes, depending on water conditions.
Biodegradable Scattering Urns
In line with the trend toward biodegradable urns, several urn companies are now producing biodegradable urns for scattering ashes. These can be bamboo, wood, and even cardboard. The cardboard scattering urns with screen printed graphics on them can take several months to 1 year to biodegrade, depending on exposure to moisture and if they are buried or not. Although they biodegrade relatively quickly, this specific type of cardboard requires a significant amount of energy in its manufacturing and a manufacturing process that is not environmentally friendly. Wooden scattering urns are much more eco friendly and natural and can take a few months to up to 10 years to biodegrade depending on the type of wood, the density, and exposure to moisture and soil. Also, if the wood has a finish applied to it then biodegradation will take more time.
Biodegradable scattering urns made from bamboo are considered the most eco friendly option available as bamboo is a sustainable resource and a wonderful building material. A bamboo scattering urn that has become very popular is the Eco Scattering Urn. Bamboo itself has unique characteristics that make very strong and light and it is eco friendly because when it is cut down for use, it grows right back in a very short period of time (some types of wood can take many years to grow back once harvested). Bamboo is technically a grass and therefore, after use, if it is placed in nature or buried, it will biodegrade within a short time and within a year.
Which Biodegradable Urn is Right for You?
In this blog we’ve highlighted some of the most popular biodegradable urns and the range of time it takes them to biodegrade. Which one is right for you? The answer to this question may not only take into account the length of time it takes to biodegrade, but also the type of memorial you or your loved one prefers. If you would like a biodegradable urn but the options listed above are not for you – not to worry! With the continued rise in cremation more options for biodegradable burial, scattering, water and tree urns will become available in the next few years.