Human Composting is Now Legal in New York

New York is now the sixth state to legalize the practice

Human composting
Guests place wood chips and straw on a shrouded mannequin near the Threshold Vessel in Recompose's Gathering Space at Recompose Seattle on October 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
Mat Hayward/Getty Images for Recompose

As 2022 came to an end, New York became the sixth state in the nation to legalize a form of technology that brings together human mortality and the natural environment. Governor Kathy Hochul, as reported by The Guardian, has legalized a practice known as human composting in the state — and, yes, it’s exactly what you think it is.

How does the process work? Author and mortician Caitlin Doughty, who has written extensively about death, explored the phenomenon for the New York Times in 2022. “With human composting technology, our dead have the chance to become nutrient-rich soil that can be used to plant trees and regrow forests,” Doughty wrote. She went on to observe that there’s a pragmatic reason for this practice: namely, that it “fulfills many people’s desire to nurture the earth after dying.”

In early 2021, the Seattle Times offered more details on the process with a look inside Recompose, a Washington-based company that composted bodies from all over the country. The article notes that many of the families involved chose to donate the composted remains to what the article describes as “an ecological restoration project” elsewhere in the state.

Recompose founder Katrina Spade was quoted in The Guardian advocating for the practice over, say, cremation. “Cremation uses fossil fuels and burial uses a lot of land and has a carbon footprint,” Spade said. This isn’t to say that the practice was uniformly welcomed; the article notes that the New York State Catholic Conference had opposed the legislation. There’s no word yet on when the first instance of human composting is set to take place in New York State yet, however.

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