Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation on Saturday that legalizes human composting.
New York is now the sixth state in the nation that has legalized the practice.
The bill was introduced by Democrat State Assembly Member Amy Paulin and Democrat State Sen. Leroy Comrie. It states that “Natural Organic Reduction accelerates the process of biological decomposition in an above-ground container, naturally converting human remains to soil. The method will provide New Yorkers with the option of choosing an environmentally sustainable and cost-effective alternative to burial and cremation. Natural Organic Reduction was legalized in Washington State in 2019 and is currently going through legislative efforts in other states.”
The process takes 60 days and works by placing a person’s remains in a vessel and filling it with a mix of wood chips, alfalfa, and straw.
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The New York State Catholic Conference has vehemently opposed the bill.
“Composting is something we as a society associate with a sustainable method of eliminating organic trash that otherwise ends up in landfills. But human bodies are not household waste, and the bishops do not believe that the process meets the standard of reverent treatment of our earthly remains,” Dennis Poust, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, told the Catholic Courier.
“Like most bills in Albany, there were no public hearings allowing New Yorkers to weigh in on the pros and cons of the bill. It was all done behind closed doors,” Poust added. “The average New Yorker has no idea this bill was introduced, let alone passed. While it has been covered here and there in the press, it has received very little attention, which is troubling, because we certainly think that new methods of disposition of human remains ought to be talked about in society, and the public should have a chance to consider if this is a direction we want to go.”
In a statement about the bill issued on June 1, the New York State Catholic Conference said, “while not everyone shares the same beliefs with regard to the reverent and respectful treatment of human remains, we believe there are a great many New Yorkers who would be uncomfortable at best with this proposed composting/fertilizing method, which is more appropriate for vegetable trimmings and eggshells than for human bodies.”
A Seattle funeral home that composts humans, Recompose, charges $7,000 and boasts that they can turn the deceased into soil in “as little as 30 days.”
The funeral home’s website explains that they offer a “laying in” ceremony when the body is placed in a vessel to compost.
“When you arrive at Recompose Seattle, you will be greeted by a member of our Services team who will guide you to the Gathering Space. Your person’s body will be in view when you walk into the Gathering Space, laying on a dark green bed we call a cradle, draped in a natural cloth,” the website explains.” The cradle will be stationed in front of our white, hexagonal threshold vessel, which is a passageway to our vessel system. A Recompose Services Specialist will guide you through the ceremony from start to finish.”
The company claims that “for every person who chooses Recompose over conventional burial or cremation, one metric ton of carbon dioxide is prevented from entering the atmosphere. In addition, our approach to human composting requires 1/8 the energy of conventional burial or cremation. Recompose allows you to choose an end-of-life option that strengthens the environment rather than depleting it.”