New York Gov. Kathy Hochul signs bill legalizing ‘human composting’

This makes New York the sixth state in the US to legalize the eco-friendly burial method.

Materials in a compost pile (photo credit: KSD5/CC0/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Materials in a compost pile
(photo credit: KSD5/CC0/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

New York Governor Kathy Hochul on Saturday approved legislation legalizing an eco-friendly burial method called natural organ reduction, or “human composting,” the New York Post reported.

The Post noted that this makes New York the sixth state in the US to legalize the burial method.

The process of natural organ reduction involves placing a corpse in a sealed container with organic materials like alfalfa, straw or sawdust. The container is attached to an HVAC system and the remains are left to decompose for 30 days. Then, the contents are filtered for inorganic material and bones are broken down and then placed back into the container for another 30 days, according to the report.

According to the BBC, after the remains are broken down by microbes, the soil is returned to the family of the deceased, and they can use it to plant trees, flowers or vegetables.

The BBC noted that Washington became the first state to legalize natural organ reduction in 2019, followed by Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and California.

Maturing windrows at an in-vessel composting facility. (credit: RED58BILL/CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Maturing windrows at an in-vessel composting facility. (credit: RED58BILL/CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)/VIA WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Environmental benefits of natural organ reduction

The BBC cited American company Recompose as saying that the process can save a ton of carbon dioxide compared to a traditional burial or cremation.

The report noted that carbon dioxide emissions are a major contributing factor to climate change, as the gas traps heat via the greenhouse effect.

Opposition to the burial method

The BBC report noted that some Catholic bishops in New York opposed the legalization of natural organ reduction, saying human remains should not be treated like "household waste," and that others raised concerns about the cost of composting.

The report noted that Recompose said its prices are comparable to other burial methods, with its fee totaling $7,000, while the median cost of a funeral with a burial totaled $7,848 or $6,971 with a cremation in 2021, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.