New York Becomes Sixth State to Legalize Composting of Human Bodies

Image via JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty
Image via JASON REDMOND/AFP/Getty

The state of New York has become the sixth in the United States to legalize the composting of human bodies, per the Associated Press.

Democratic governor Kathy Hochul signed the legislation on Saturday (Dec. 31, 2022) to legalize natural organic reduction, which is otherwise known as human composting or terramation. New York is the sixth state to legalize the method of burial, following Washington in 2019, Colorado and Oregon in 2021, and California and Vermont in 2022.

The process of natural organic reduction, which is said to be a more environmentally friendly form of burial, involves the body of a deceased individual placed into a reusable container alongside plant materials. The organic mix allows for microbes to quickly break down the body within a month, resulting in a cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil equivalent to about 36 bags of regular soil. It can be used to plant trees or help forests and gardens. Several companies already offer the service in other states where it is legal.

“Return Home is incredibly excited about New York’s recent human composting legalization. This is a huge step for accessible green death care nationwide,” said Washington state eco-friendly funeral service Return Home in a comment provided to the New York Post. The company promises to offer "human composting as a death care option," and they said they've received "tons of inquiries" from people in New York.

Speaking with Associated Press, Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve manager Michelle Menter said the New York facility is looking to “strongly consider” the method of burial. “It definitely is more in line with what we do,” she said, noting that land is limited in places like New York. "Every single thing we can do to turn people away from concrete liners and fancy caskets and embalming, we ought to do and be supportive of."

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