New Yorkers may soon have another burial option: to be converted into the ground.
The state legislature passed a bill (S.5535/A.382) enabling human composting. This would allow facilities to use natural organic reduction, which speeds up the process of biological decomposition in an aboveground container and turns human remains into soil, according to the wording of the bill.
The method is environmentally friendly and a cost-effective alternative to cremation and burial, in accordance with legislation. Washington state legalized natural biological reduction in 2019, and Oregon and Colorado passed similar bills last year.
The state Senate passed the bill by a 61-2 vote early Friday morning, and the Assembly passed it 98-52 on Wednesday. If Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) signs it, the measure will go into effect 90 days later.
The New York State Catholic Conference opposed the measure, saying it reverses the idea that the human body should be treated with dignity and respect.
“While not everyone shares the same beliefs regarding respectful and respectful handling of human remains, we believe there are a large number of New Yorkers who would be uncomfortable with this at best. proposed composting/fertilization method, which is more appropriate for vegetable trimmings and eggshells than for human bodies,” the group said in a statement.
Human composting is an eco-friendly alternative to cemeteries, which takes up land and saves resources such as wood, concrete and steel used in casket construction, according to a memo from the Environmental Advocates of New York.
Traditional burials can also lead to soil and groundwater pollution from the embalming process, which uses toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde, the advocacy group noted.
“Cremation isn’t much better for the environment, as 28 gallons of fuel are needed for a single cremation, releasing 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air, along with other dangerous chemicals like monoxide and mercury,” the band said in the memo.
Human composting places stay in a specially designed container with wood chips, alfalfa and straw, according to the group. Within weeks, microbes and oxygen transform the remains into soil.
Recompose, a Washington state-based company that offers natural organic reduction, estimates that human composting saves a metric ton of carbon dioxide, compared to burial or cremation.
Reduce carbon footprints
New York’s human composting legislation comes as the state aims to reduce carbon emissions and tackle climate change.
Under legislation passed in 2019, the state plans to get all of its electricity from emission-free sources by 2040 and achieve an 85 percent reduction in economy-wide emissions from to 1990 levels by 2050.
Natural organic reduction facilities would have to follow the same standards as crematoria, according to the proposed legislation. They could not mix remains and would have to follow the same privacy, certification and identification standards as crematoria.
If remains that have undergone natural organic reduction are not collected by a family, for example, they may be scattered in a garden or designated area, or in a tomb, crypt or other location designated by a cemetery society authorized, according to the invoice.