California legalizes human composting

Story at a glance

  • California has joined Washington, Colorado, Vermont and Oregon in legalizing the composting of human remains.

  • Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) signed a bill into law this week that directs state agencies to create guidelines for the alternative to cremation or burial.

  • Under the law, state officials have five years to come up with guidelines.

Californians will soon be able to compost themselves and loved ones after death.

Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law this week directing state officials to create regulations for human composting, a process known as natural organic reduction, by 2027.

Washington became the first state to legalize organic reduction in place of cremation or a traditional burial in 2019, followed by Oregon and Colorado in 2021.

Vermont legalized the practice earlier this year, and a bill legalizing human composting passed both the New York state Assembly and Senate this spring. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) has yet to sign the bill.

The process works by placing the deceased in a special vessel and covering them with a mix of wood chips, alfalfa and straw allowing for a mix of microbes to break down the body.

Recompose, a Seattle funeral home that specializes in natural organic reduction, charges $7,000 to compost human remains and states on its website that it can turn a body into soil in as little as 30 days.

Once the process is complete, the “nutrient-rich material” can be spread on garden beds, planted with a tree or used for conservation efforts, the website adds.

CEO of Recompose Katrina Spade said in a statement to Changing America the company is “thrilled” that Californians now have the option to choose to compost human remains instead of cremation or burial.

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