Californians will be able in a few years to compost their bodies after death under a new law signed Sunday by Gov. Gavin Newsom.
The process, called natural organic reduction, involves placing a corpse in a steel vessel and covering it with materials such as wood chips, alfalfa, and straw until it decomposes. The remains are returned to family members or can be mixed into soil in a conservation area.
Washington was the first state to allow people to choose human composting as an alternative to burial or cremation, followed by Colorado and Oregon. Under the new law, California officials must come up with regulations by 2027.
Asm. Cristina Garcia, a Bell Garden Democrat, co-introduced the proposal. She extolled the new law’s potential environmental benefits.
“The wildfires, extreme drought and heat dome we just experienced remind us that climate change is real and detrimental and we must do everything we can to reduce methane and CO2 emissions,” Garcia said in a statement, adding that it took three years for the proposal to pass.
Recompose, a funeral home in Seattle offers the service for $7,000, according to its website. The company says it takes about six to eight weeks for a person’s body to turn into soil.
Katrina Spade, its CEO, said in a statement she was thrilled that Newsom signed the bill.
“Natural organic reduction is safe and sustainable, allowing our bodies to return to the land after we die,” Spade said.
Newsom did not provide a comment with his approval of the measure, which was overwhelming passed by lawmakers last month.
But there was opposition.
Before the bill was passed, the California Catholic Conference said the process reduced bodies to a “disposable commodity.” It added that burying bodies, or honoring cremated remains, “comports with the virtually universal norm of reverence and care towards the deceased.”
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