THANOS magazine

United States | January 9, 2023

Human coposting has been legalized in New York State

New York State became the sixth U.S. state to legalize human composting.
In 2019, Washington was the first US state to legalise it. Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and California followed suit.
A person can now have their body turned into soil after their death - which is seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to a burial or cremation, also known as "natural organic reduction". Proponents of human composting say it is not only a more environmental option, but also a more practical one in cities where land for cemeteries is limited. But, for some, there are ethical questions about what happens to the soil which results from the composting. Catholic bishops in New York state reportedly opposed the legislation, arguing that human bodies should not be treated like "household waste".

Recompose founder and CEO, Katrina Spade’s idea to create a human composting system began years ago when she was in grad school for architecture. Her initial design was for a building in NYC where humans would be transformed into soil. So in a way, this bill means that the idea of human composting will get to return home.

The human composting process happens in special above-ground facilities. A body is put in a closed vessel along with selected materials such as woodchips, alfalfa and straw grass, and gradually breaks down under the action of microbes. After a period of around a month - and a heating process to kill off any contagion - loved ones are given the resulting soil. This can be used in planting flowers, vegetables or trees. Recompose, has said its service can save a tonne of carbon compared with a cremation or a traditional burial. Cost of composting - $7,000 (£5,786) - is "comparable" with rival options. The median sum in the US for a funeral with a burial was $7,848 in 2021, or $6,971 for a funeral with a cremation, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA).

Human composting is already legal throughout Sweden. Similar project is developed in Germany. Natural burials - in which a body is buried without a coffin or with a biodegradable coffin - are permitted in the UK.

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