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New York legalizes human composting: What is it? How does it work?

New York has become the sixth state to legalize natural organic reduction, more commonly known as human composting or terramation, after death.

Governor Kathy Hochul signed the legislation into law on Saturday, giving New Yorkers access to a more environmentally-friendly alternative to traditional burials.

The process involves placing the deceased into a reusable, semi-open vessel filled with bedding, such as wood chips or straw, and allowing microbes to decompose the body over the course of six to eight weeks. The resulting nutrient-dense soil, equivalent to 36 bags of soil, can then be used as fertilizer.


Human composting was first legalized in Washington in 2019, followed by Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, and California. While the method has been praised by advocates as a more sustainable option that reduces carbon emissions and conserves land, it has faced opposition from some religious organizations. The New York State Catholic Conference encouraged its followers to pressure Hochul to veto the bill, arguing that the process “does not provide the respect due to bodily remains.”

However, proponents of terramation argue that it is not only environmentally friendly, but also more economical than traditional burial or cremation methods. “Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” explained Katrina Spade, the founder of Recompose, a green funeral home in Seattle that offers human composting. “For a lot of folks being turned into soil that can be turned to grow into a garden or tree is pretty impactful.”

In order to be eligible for natural organic reduction, remains must be delivered to a cemetery certified as an organic reduction facility and must not contain any hazardous materials such as batteries or radioactive devices. Some pioneers in the field also offer green burials and water cremation as alternative methods.



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