PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Rhode Island lawmaker is pushing to make so-called “human composting” legal in the Ocean State.
Rep. Michelle McGaw felt compelled to introduce the legislation after being approached by several of her constituents about the practice.
McGaw’s legislation would legalize natural organic reduction, which is commonly referred to as human composting, and allow Rhode Islanders to choose it as an alternative to burial or cremation.
“Not everyone is comfortable with the impact of burial, which occupies land, or cremation, which emits a significant amount of carbon,” McGaw explained. “Natural organic reduction is a greener alternative that may be preferable for those concerned about how their final wishes affect the planet.”
Natural organic reduction is performed indoors in specialized facilities equipped with vessels in which deceased bodies are placed. The vessels are typically filled with organic matter — such as wood chips, straw and flowers — to help speed up the decomposition process.
The vessels are kept in a warm chamber for four to seven weeks until the deceased body and organic matter are fully transformed into a nutrient-dense soil.
Washington was the first state to legalize the practice in 2019. Since then, five more states, including New York, have followed suit.
McGaw said her legislation would establish laws for the creation and operation of natural organic reduction facilities in the state.
The facilities, she said, would be licensed and regulated by the Rhode Island Department of Health.
The bill states that, once the natural organic reduction process is complete, the soil must be scattered in a designated garden cemetery; placed in a grave, crypt or niche; or returned to the decedent’s family.
The process is designed to reduce a human’s impact on the earth, according to McGaw.
McGaw doesn’t expect the legislation to be passed in its current form, and hopes that it will start a conversation on whether and how the state can offer the practice.
While she acknowledges that her legislation may make some Rhode Islanders uncomfortable, she hopes others will find comfort “in the prospect of going to their final resting place as part of the earth.”
“For people who have respected the earth and tried to lighten their impact on it in life, it makes sense to also want to take the greenest, most environmentally beneficial route in death,” she said. “This is an option that we should work to make available here in Rhode Island, for our people and for our planet.”