Rhode Island House Approves Human Composting Option for Deathcare

In a significant move toward eco-friendly deathcare, the Rhode Island House of Representatives has approved a bill that legalizes human composting, providing residents with an alternative to traditional burial and cremation. This legislation aims to reduce the environmental impact of end-of-life processes.

The bill, introduced by Representative Michelle McGaw, permits natural organic reduction (NOR) facilities to operate in Rhode Island. This process, often referred to as human composting, involves transforming human remains into nutrient-rich soil using organic materials such as wood chips, straw, and alfalfa. The conversion takes about 8 to 12 weeks, after which the resulting soil can be returned to families or donated to conservation projects​​.

Human composting is seen as a sustainable option, significantly reducing the carbon footprint compared to cremation and traditional burials. Cremation releases harmful pollutants, including carbon dioxide and heavy metals, into the atmosphere, while conventional burials consume large quantities of resources like hardwood, steel, and embalming chemicals, which can contaminate soil and water​.

While the bill has garnered significant support for its environmental benefits, it has faced opposition on religious grounds. Catholic leaders in Rhode Island have criticized the practice, arguing that it does not align with the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of the human body and the belief in bodily resurrection. The Catholic Church maintains that traditional burial is the most respectful way to handle human remains, emphasizing reverence and dignity for the deceased​ ​.

The legalization of human composting in Rhode Island follows a trend seen in other states. Washington was the first to legalize the practice in 2020, followed by states like Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Nevada, and New York. Proponents of the bill argue that it offers a practical solution to the environmental and economic challenges associated with conventional deathcare practices​​.

As the legislation moves forward, it will implement regulations to ensure the safe and respectful handling of human remains. These include health inspections, identification procedures, and restrictions on who can perform the composting process, ensuring that only licensed professionals are involved​​.

Representative McGaw, inspired by the eco-friendly approach and the support from constituents, believes that human composting aligns with broader efforts to promote environmental sustainability. She hopes that this new option will encourage more people to consider the ecological impact of their end-of-life choices​.

This development represents a significant shift in how society approaches deathcare, reflecting growing awareness and commitment to environmental issues even in posthumous practices.