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Connecticut lawmakers consider legalizing 'human composting'

Instead of being buried or cremated, "human composting" entails covering remains with natural, biodegradable materials. After several months, the result is upward of 15 bags of nutrient-rich soil.

John Craven

Jan 27, 2023, 6:04 PM

Updated 511 days ago


You've heard of cremation, but what about "human composting?" It's a process where bodies naturally decompose into soil, and Connecticut could become the next state to legalize it.
Wilton's new state representative, Democrat Keith Denning, is pitching the idea along with several other lawmakers.
"Cemeteries take up a lot of space," he said. "Composting is a natural way for us to return to the Earth from which we came."
A bill would legalize human composting in Connecticut, beginning on Oct. 1. On Monday, the legislature's Environment Committee will hold a public hearing on the legislation.
Officially, the process is called "terramation" or "natural organic reduction." Over one or two months, organic materials like straw, wood chips and alfalfa naturally break down the body in a sealed vessel. The process produces up to 250 pounds of nutrient-rich soil.
Terramation was just legalized in New York; five other states allow it as well.
One of the nation's largest facilities is Return Home in Auburn, Washington. CEO Micah Turner said they field inquiries from all 50 states.
"Everything we do is designed to accelerate what nature already does so well," he said.
Traditional burials take a grave toll on the environment. Every year 827,000 gallons of embalming fluid leak into the ground, and each cremation uses 30 gallons of fuel, according to the National Funeral Directors Association.
Denning said composting is a greener alternative.
"It's ecologically friendly," he said. "You don't have any carbon production during this process."
But some religious groups oppose human composting. The New York State Catholic Conference unsuccessfully lobbied to defeat the law there.
Despite some concerns, the Connecticut Catholic Conference said it's unlikely to fight the idea in our state.
"As long as this legislation does not require any faith to accommodate such practices through its religious teaching or on its burial grounds, we will not oppose it," said CCC executive director Will Healy.
The public appears divided.
In written testimony, Laura Copland of Ivoryton wrote: "Green burials avoid the use of fossil fuel and are an environmentally sound alternative."
But Dr. Linda Dalessio took a different view: "We are made in God's image, would you throw away God for human compost?"
Those News 12 asked weren't quite convinced either.
"I mean, if that's what people want to do when they die, I think it's fine," said Kristen Misiolek, of Norwalk. "I don't think that's what I would want to do necessarily."
If the bill passes, Gov. Ned Lamont would have to sign it. He's not sold – yet.
"Let's say I'm going to put that in the 'wait and see' category," he said.
The bill includes several protections:
Connecticut Department of Public Health would have to certify terramation facilities and employees
Immediate family members would have to sign an authorization form
Bodies could not be combined
In most cases, terramation vessels could not be opened once the process begins
Denning understands the public's hesitation but noted that cremation was only accepted in the past few decades.
"There's a lot of us who feel that going back to the Earth is a much more spiritual thing to do than being laid in a cemetery," he said.
You can speak at Monday's public hearing or submit written testimony. After that, the Environment Committee could make changes to the bill before a possible vote in the coming weeks.
On Wednesday, the Public Health Committee will hear testimony on a similar bill.

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