A new law, Senate Bill S5535, will provide New Yorkers with a new option for disposing of their bodies after they have died.
At the end of 2022, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed legislation that opens the door for New Yorkers to have their earthly remains disposed of through biological decomposition. This will be a more environmentally-friendly solution than burial or cremation and New York is now the sixth state to allow this process. The legislation goes into effect in a few months.
The current options for New York’s deceased are cremation or burial, but the third option, organic reduction, is essentially what happens in a cemetery, but over a shorter period of time. Advocates say this option is much more sustainable, to the extent that the media has started referring to the legislation as the “human composting bill.”
The natural organic reduction, or terramation, will require a different process than a cemetery has previously been able to provide. Cemeteries provide for the respectful disposition of human remains either through burial or the heat and flame of cremation, using wood chips and alfalfa. But terramation will involve a different process: Individual vessels for bodies where the remains undergo accelerated decomposition under a constant temperature over a time period of around 30 to 60 days. The remains, if they contain bone fragments, may then be pulverized and then mixed with soil. And then deposited in a cemetery or somewhere else.
What is different with terramation than cremation is there are more substantive remains (some experts estimate about a wheelbarrow full), which means relatives of the deceased may still prefer a cemetery’s plot as a final resting place or to take a portion of the remains for memorialization. Further regulations will restrict exactly what people can do publicly with those remains, however, and the bill essentially relates to the creation, operation, and duties of natural organic reduction facilities as cemetery corporations.