New York has become the latest US state to allow so-called human composting.
A person can now have their body turned into soil after their death – which is seen as an environmentally friendly alternative to a burial or cremation.
Also known as “natural organic reduction”, the practice sees a body decompose over several weeks after being shut in a container.
The end result is a heaping cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil amendment, the equivalent of about 36 bags of soil, that can be used to plant trees or enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.
For urban areas such as New York City where land is limited, it can be seen as a pretty attractive burial alternative.
New York is therefore the sixth American jurisdiction to allow human composting, following Saturday’s stamp of approval from Kathy Hochul, the state’s Democratic governor.
Proponents of human composting say it is not only a more environmental option, but also a more practical one in cities where land for cemeteries is limited.
The process happens in special above-ground facilities.
A body is put in a closed vessel along with selected materials such as woodchips, alfalfa and straw grass, and gradually breaks down under the action of microbes.
After a period of around a month – and a heating process to kill off any contagion – loved ones are given the resulting soil. This can be used in planting flowers, vegetables or trees.
However, not everyone is in favor of the idea.
The New York State Catholic Conference, a group that represents bishops in the state, has long opposed the bill, calling the burial method “inappropriate. A process that is perfectly appropriate for returning vegetable trimmings to the earth is not necessarily appropriate for human bodies,” Dennis Poust, executive director of the organization, said in a statement.“Human bodies are not household waste, and we do not believe that the process meets the standard of reverent treatment of our earthly remains,” he said.ABC