California passes law to allow human composting

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CNN

California has become the latest state to offer its residents an eco-friendly, albeit unorthodox, option for their remains after death: composting.

Governor Gavin Newsom signed the bill into law last Sunday, according to a press release from the bill’s author, state Deputy Cristina Garcia.

The process is officially called “natural organic reduction” and involves “promoting a gentle transformation into nutrient-rich soil, which can then be returned to families or donated to conservation land,” the statement explains.

Natural organic reduction is less harmful to the environment than the other two legal options (cremation and burial), according to the release. Burial can allow chemicals to seep into the ground, and cremation requires burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide.

The law will not come into force until January 2027, according to the text of the bill. The law states that the Cemetery and Funeral Office, a subdivision of the Department of Consumer Affairs, will develop regulations for facilities performing the process.

In the release, Garcia called natural organic reduction “an alternative method of final disposal that will not contribute emissions to our atmosphere and will actually capture CO2 in our soil and trees.”

“If more people participate in bioreduction and tree planting, we can help reduce California’s carbon footprint,” she said. “This bill has been in the works for three years and I am very happy that it has been signed into law. I look forward to continuing my legacy of fighting for clean air by using my shrunken leftovers to plant a tree.

Recompose, a company that has been offering natural organic reduction services since 2020, also welcomed the law in the statement.

“Recompose is thrilled that nature-based death care options in California have expanded,” the company’s CEO and founder, Katrina Spade, said in the release. “Natural organic reduction is safe and long-lasting, allowing our bodies to return to the earth after we die.”

According to the Recompose website, natural organic reduction works much like composting your vegetable scraps. The body is placed in a container with wood shavings, alfalfa and straw. For a month, the microbes work to break down the body into a cubic meter of soil, which can then be used in a loved one’s garden or anywhere else.

Washington became the first state to legalize so-called “human composting” in 2019. Lawmakers also cited the ecological benefits of reduction over burial and cremation.

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