Human composting is legal in these six states

New York State has legalized natural organic reduction, better known as human composting, which is considered by some to be an environmentally friendly alternative to the burial and cremation of human bodies.

The move was endorsed by Kathy Hochul, the state’s governor, meaning human composting is now legal in six states in the United States.

Human composting sees a body enclosed in a container, usually filled with materials such as straw and wood shavings, where it decomposes over a period of weeks.

At the end of the process, the resulting compost is usually given to the family of the deceased, who can deposit it in a special place for the deceased.

Guests place flowers on a wrapped mannequin near the Threshold ship in the Recompose staging space at Recompose Seattle on October 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. Human composting is now legal in six US states
Matt Hayward/GETTY

Proponents argue that human composting produces less carbon emissions than cremation or burial, and is therefore more environmentally friendly.

Tom Harries, CEO of Earth Funeral, said Newsweek “Each cremation is equivalent to a 600 mile car ride in terms of carbon dioxide [emissions].”

write for Newsweek Micah Truman, CEO of Return Home, a Washington-based human composting company, said: “A single cremation typically uses nearly 30 gallons of fuel and emits about 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and the ashes of ‘a person are not useful to the earth.

“Conventional burial, on the other hand, takes up a lot of space and commonly uses embalming fluid that contains formaldehyde, a known carcinogen.”

Explaining his decision to found Return Home, Truman added, “I realized I had to do something that had real meaning; to give something back to the world and to allow younger generations to have a world to live in.”

However, the process is controversial and has faced opposition from some religious groups.

Prior to legalization in New York, the New York State Catholic Conference lobbied against human composting, which it said “does not offer due respect to bodily remains.”

Dennis Poust, the conference director, said, “A perfectly appropriate process for bringing plant waste back to earth is not necessarily appropriate for the human body.”

Which US states allow human composting?

Washington was the first US state to legalize human composting, followed in 2021 by Colorado and Oregon. In 2022, the practice was legalized in Vermont, California and finally New York, meaning human composting is now allowed in a total of six states.

In California, Bill 351, which legalizes human composting, went into effect in September after being signed into law by state Governor Gavin Newsom.

In response, Cristina Garcia, the Democrat who introduced the legislation to the California State Assembly, tweeted, “AB 351 has been signed into law! It legalizes ‘human composting’ as an afterlife option.

“Wildfires, extreme drought, record heat waves remind us that climate change is real and that we must do everything we can to reduce methane and CO2 emissions.”

Human composting is also legal in Sweden, while natural burials, where a body is buried without a coffin, are permitted in the UK according to the BBC.


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