A new bill in California has officially made it legal to use human remains for the purpose of composting.
This past Sunday, AB-351 was officially signed by Democratic Governor of California Gavin Newsom and is slated to allow residents the have the option to will their remains to be composted in the wake of their death, starting in the year 2027.
Christina Garcia, an assembly member and one of the chief architects and author of the new bill, seemingly implied that she just might choose this new method for herself once it goes live.
“Trees are important carbon breaks for the environment,” stated Garcia. “They are the best filters for air quality and if more people participate in organic reduction and tree-planting, we can help with California’s carbon footprint. I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.”
This new bill institutes a new regulation method for the state for the entirety of the new process.
This particular method of body disposal is already fully legalized in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, and is done by placing the deceased person’s body inside of a reusable vessel surrounded by wood chips. The vessel is then well ventilated in order to allow and even encourage the grown and spread of microorganisms in the body. After roughly a month, the body breaks down and becomes nutrient-rich soil, as reported by SF Gate.
This particular process is thought to be much more friendly to the environment in terms of the disposal of remains instead of burning them via cremation. Garcia issued the claim that climate change was the main reason for the instigation of the bill.
“AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally-friendly and gives them another choice for burial,” stated Garcia. “With climate change and sea-level rise as very real threats to our environment, this is an alternative method of final disposition that won’t contribute emissions into our atmosphere.”
As part of a released statement, Garcia highlighted the fact that for each person who chooses to go through with natural organic reduction (NOR) as an alternative to cremation or standard burial, the new method would block the same amount as one metric ton of carbon from being released into the air.
This method has not come to be with its fair share of controversy, most notably from the heads of the Catholic Church, which has stated that it “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity.”
“NOR uses essentially the same process as a home gardening composting system,” explained the executive director of the California Catholic Conference. Kathleen Domingo, as part of a release handed over to SF Gate. She also highlighted that such a practice was originally created for use on animals, not human beings.
“These methods of disposal were used to lessen the possibility of disease being transmitted by the dead carcass,” she stated. “Using these same methods for the ‘transformation’ of human remains can create an unfortunate spiritual, emotional and psychological distancing from the deceased.”
Representatives of the church also highlighted that such a method “risks people treading over human remains without their knowledge while repeated dispersions in the same area are tantamount to a mass grave.”