There is a new trend in deathcare gaining ground. Going by various names, such as natural organic reduction (NOR), recomposition, human composting, and Terramation™, it is defined as the contained accelerated decomposition of human remains into soil. It involves a four- to six-week process of turning a body into soil by putting human remains into a vessel with straw, alfalfa, and wood chips and adding carbon and nitrogen. The end result is a cubic yard of nutrient-dense soil that can be used to plant trees or enrich conservation land, forests, or gardens.
The idea of human composting began to take root back in 2015 when Katrina Spade completed her first human decomposition study at Western Carolina University. She later founded Recompose in 2017 and pursued policy change until her home state of Washington was the first to legalized it in 2019.
Including Washington, six states have now legalized natural organic reduction as a method of disposition. Colorado and Oregon legalized it in 2021, and Vermont and California did so in 2022. As of January 1, 2023, New York was added to the list, while bills are currently pending in Delaware, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. According to the state bills passed, human composition services will not be available, however, in New York until April 2023 and in California until 2027.
The trend toward recomposition is growing in popularity. This option gives families an alternative to burial and cremation that is considered to be "greener" and more environmentally sustainable. It preserves natural resources and avoids the pollution emissions in cremation. Final disposition service providers, such as crematories and funeral homes, and especially those in New York and California, should begin preparing for these natural organic reduction laws to go into effect. Training staff, preparing for NOR services, and locating the nearest NOR facilities would be an ideal first step.
If you are creating new natural organic reduction facilities or preparing your existing facility to offer NOR, we suggest our walk-in coolers for housing bodies prior to processing. Our body lifts, racks, and prep room tables will all provide the necessary cooler equipment to service families with excellence.