Human composting, also known as “recomposition,” is a process in which the organic matter of a human body is broken down and converted into compost through the action of microbes.
This is an alternative to traditional burial or cremation and is designed to be a more environmentally friendly way to dispose of human remains. New York became the 6th US state to legalise human composting, as gov. Kathy Hochul signed the legislation on Saturday. The first state to legalise it was Washington back in 2019, followed by Colorado and Oregon in 2021 and Vermont and California in 2022.
The process involves placing the body in a vessel with wood chips, alfalfa, and other materials that promote decomposition, and then allowing it to decompose naturally over the course of several weeks. After the process is complete, in 60 days, the resulting compost can be used to enrich soil or can be returned to the family of the deceased to be used in a way that is meaningful to them.
Meanwhile, there are a couple of green funeral homes in the US offering human composting, green burials and water cremation – aquamation, services that can save a tonne of carbon when compared with traditional burial or cremation. “Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” said Katrina Spade, the founder of a green funeral home in Seattle. “For a lot of folks being turned into soil that can be turned to grow into a garden or tree is pretty impactful,” she added.
Although many have applauded the eco-friendly method, some are opposing it, considering it “does not provide the respect due to bodily remains”. The New York State Catholic Conference stated that “a process that is perfectly appropriate for returning vegetable trimmings to the earth is not necessarily appropriate for human bodies.”