California Governor Signs Bill To Allow Human Composting

California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has signed legislation that would allow the practice of composting human remains in an effort to combat climate change.

Citing the high CO2 emissions caused by the cremation process — which reportedly accounts for approximately 360,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year — the legislation will allow people the option of giving their remains over to a process known as natural organic reduction (NOR) if they choose not to be buried or cremated.

“The process involves placing the body inside a long, reusable steel container along with wood chips and flowers to aerate it – allowing microbes and bacteria to break down the remains,” according to reporting from the Daily Mail. “One month later, the remains will fully decompose and be turned into soil.”

The human-composted soil will then be given to the deceased’s family or donated to conservation land.

The author of the bill, California Assemblymember Cristina Garcia (D), praised NOR — calling it a “more environmentally friendly” process.

“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,” Garcia wrote. “I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.”

According to the legislation, it will be illegal to combine human remains without permission or unless the individuals are related. The bill also states that it will be illegal to sell the soil or to use it for agricultural purposes.

The Catholic Church strongly opposes NOR, and argues that it was meant for livestock.

“NOR uses essentially the same process as a home gardening composting system,” said Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.

“These methods of disposal were used to lessen the possibility of disease being transmitted by the dead carcass,” she added. “Using these same methods for the ‘transformation’ of human remains can create an unfortunate spiritual, emotional and psychological distancing from the deceased.”

The law will not go into effect until 2027. Other states which have enacted similar legislation include Washington, Colorado and Oregon.