The new method will be allowed under law starting in 2027, The Los Angeles Times reports, with supporters saying the new, eco-friendly method eliminates the need for nonbiodegradable coffins, the carbon dioxide produced in cremations, and the toxic chemicals used to embalm bodies.
Smithsonian Magazine explains that after the microbes break down the body and the materials, a process that takes about a month, what’s left is a “nutrient-rich soil” loved ones can then use in flower beds or donate to conservation areas.
As reported by the Catholic News Agency, executive of the California Catholic Conference Kathleen Domingo wrote a letter opposing the bill, saying that human composting creates an “unfortunate spiritual, emotional, and psychological distancing from the deceased,” adding that the process “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity.”
The New York State Catholic Conference equally opposed bills on human composting. In a statement from June 2022, the group wrote about the bill proposed in New York that “a great many New Yorkers who would be uncomfortable at best with this proposed composting/fertilizing method, which is more appropriate for vegetable trimmings and eggshells than for human bodies.”
Katrina Spade, chief executive of Recompose, a Seattle-based “green funeral home” that offers human composting, said in a statement:
“This new law will provide California’s 39 million residents with a meaningful funeral option that offers significant savings in carbon emissions, water, and land usage over conventional burial or cremation. … Our end-of-life choices matter in the effort to heal this planet.”
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I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.