New California law allows human remains to be turned into organic compost

There are some people who are so devoted to the fight against climate change that they are willing and eager to violate all sorts of societal norms and break taboos in order to gain even slight reductions in carbon emissions or the use of fossil fuels.

Plenty of those kinds of people reside in California, where the Democratic legislature and governor just passed into law a bill that allows for the composting of human remains, Breitbart reported.

Human composting, more formally known as “natural organic reduction,” or NOR, was touted by supporters of the bill as being more “environmentally friendly” than standard burials and cremations.

Human remains turned into compost

The Daily Mail reported that California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) quietly signed the bill into law on Sunday that would allow California residents to choose whether they wanted their remains turned into compost instead of being buried in a cemetery or cremated into ashes.

The outlet noted that the NOR “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,” with that process taking about a month for the human remains to “fully decompose and be turned into soil. ”

The bill, known as AB 351, was introduced by Assemblymember Christina Garcia (D), who said in a statement in June, “AB 351 will provide an additional option for California residents that is more environmentally friendly and gives them another choice for burial. 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.”

Choosing to become a garden or tree after death

Garcia went on to suggest that she would choose to be composted after her death and for the resultant nutrient-rich soil to be used to plant a tree.

“Trees are important carbon breaks for the environment. 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,” the Democratic lawmaker said. “I look forward to continuing my legacy to fight for clean air by using my reduced remains to plant a tree.”

The Daily Mail noted that, according to National Geographic, cremations in the United States release approximately 360,000 metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere annually — likely due to the fossil fuels used to reduce a body to ashes — and Garcia claimed in her statement that each individual who chooses to be composted over cremated can help save about one metric ton of carbon from entering the environment.

Serious ethical concerns raised

Of course, not everybody is pleased with this new law, SFGate reported, including the Catholic Church of California, as it raises some serious ethical concerns and, ultimately, “reduces the human body to simply a disposable commodity” that is no different than how the carcasses of dead livestock are treated.

“Using these same methods for the ‘transformation’ of human remains can create an unfortunate spiritual, emotional and psychological distancing from the deceased,” Kathleen Domingo, executive director of the California Catholic Conference, told the outlet, and also warned that composted human remains being spread in public areas “risks people treading over human remains without their knowledge while repeated dispersions in the same area are tantamount to a mass grave.”

SFGate noted that human composting is already allowed in a handful of states like Washington, Oregon, and Colorado, but while Colorado’s law explicitly prohibits the composted remains from being mixed with other remains, sold as soil, or used to grow food for human consumption, the California law only bans the mixing of unrelated remains and does not prohibit the sale of the soil or its use for agricultural purposes.