New York state approves human composting


One of the things that happened at the end of 2022 is that New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill into law that permits the State of New York to add Natural Organic Reduction (NOR), sometimes referred to as “human composting”, to the list of legal human remains dispositions.  According to this article from the Associated Press, New York becomes the 6th state in the United States to approve of the process.


According to the article, “The process goes like this: the body of the deceased is placed into a reusable vessel along with plant material such as wood chips, alfalfa and straw. The organic mix creates the perfect habitat for naturally occurring microbes to do their work, quickly and efficiently breaking down the body in about a month’s time.  The end result is a heaping cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil amendment, the equivalent of about 36 bags of soil, that can be used to plant trees or enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.”


People from Greensprings Natural Cemetery Preserve in central New York made the comment that it is something that their cemetery will definitely look at as an offering to the consumer.  Michelle Menter, manager of that cemetery, made this comment in the Associated Press article, “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. . .”


The State of New York Catholic Conference has fought the bill and made this comment by their Executive Director Dennis Poust, “A process that is perfectly appropriate for returning vegetable trimmings to the earth is not necessarily appropriate for human bodies.  Human bodies are not household waste, and we do not believe that the process meets the standard of reverent treatment of our earthly remains.”


Natural Organic Reduction is, or will be soon, legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, and now New York.


Related Article —  Reaction mixed to New York’s new human composting law.  Video news story and print article.  CBS News Channel 2 – New York


Funeral Director Daily take:  As I’ve mentioned before, I believe that there is a movement to a more environmentally friendly world. . .and in death care that includes dispositions of human remains and, quite frankly, pets.  I expect that the movement in death care won’t happen fast because many people are reluctant to change their positions and philosophies as they age.


However, this environmentally friendly death care will happen. . . . .It will happen with green burials, it will happen with alkaline hydrolysis, and it will happen with natural organic reduction.  Slow growth at first and then, if accepted as common dispositions by the masses, I expect a faster growth rate will evolve.  Will that faster growth rate come tomorrow?  No, it may not be for decades or it could be more rapid than that. . . . . . changing trends getting to a point where they are culturally accepted are difficult to ascertain as to how fast that may happen.  I would suggest, however, in a world where we are all connected by cell phones and the internet, those trends will either be culturally accepted or culturally denied faster than in previous generations of history.


I expect as we move forward in years that natural organic reduction and alkaline hydrolysis will command a higher percentage selected use than they do today.  I also think it is difficult to ascertain if they will ever, in my lifetime, meet the use percentage of today’s disposition leader methods of flame cremation and earth burial.


Be on the lookout, however, for more states to move into alkaline hydrolysis and natural organic reduction legality as the legislatures begin to convene this January.


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1 Comment

  1. Eric Butler on January 6, 2023 at 9:34 am

    For those of us who have no problem with composting, can the composted remains be buried in a regular full-size grave? For myself, composting or cremation is fine, but I do want my remains buried with my family. Thirty bags of composted material seems like a lot to place in a grave, but I believe many more families would be receptive to the idea knowing if the family can be together.

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