The state of New York has legalised the process of natural organic reduction – commonly known as ‘human composting’ – becoming the sixth U.S. state to allow bodies to be composted after death. It’s said to be a more climate-friendly method of burial.
How does it work?
After a person dies, their body is placed in an above-ground reusable container held at a specific facility. Over the following month, the body and materials break down to form soil, which is delivered to loved ones for planting flowers, vegetables or trees.
Why human composting?
Advocates say there are multiple environmental benefits from the composting process. Both traditional burials and cremation produce carbon, which contributes to global warming. They also argue that human composting could resolve the overcrowding of cemeteries, particularly in metropolitan cities.
What are the arguments against it?
Religions that prescribe strict post-death practices are likely to oppose the process. In New York State, Catholic bishops have argued that human bodies should not be treated like “household waste”. There are also some concerns over the suitability of every deceased person to be turned into compost, particularly if the person had rare diseases.
Where is it legal?
In 2019, Washington was the first U.S. state to legalise the process. It has since become legal in Colorado, Oregon, Vermont and California. Outside of the U.S, the process is legal in Sweden. In the UK, ‘natural burials’ – the process of burying a body without a coffin or with a biodegradable coffin – is permitted. Human composting is not legal in Australia.