Human Composting Bill Meets Resistance from Lawmakers, Catholic Church

State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester (CT Examiner).


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HARTFORD — A proposal to legalize the composting of human remains as an environmentally friendly alternative to burial and cremation was met with opposition from Republican legislators and the Catholic Church.

State Rep. Christine Palm, D-Chester, vice chair of the Environment Committee, told CT Examiner that the practice is sanitary, safe and gives families dignity, while also preventing the release of carbon emissions associated with cremation and the burial of toxins in soil.

“This can be a new model for funeral parlors. This is what people used to do. This is a permissive law; it would not be mandated anymore than we say everyone must get cremated. It’s an alternative to the existing ways we have of disposing of a human corpse,” Palm said.

Palm, who introduced a similar bill in 2023, said numerous people have told her they would prefer human composting over cremation or burials, and believes tens of thousands of residents would choose that option. Palm noted that, with cemetery space dwindling in the state, human composting offers a more affordable alternative, potentially saving families thousands of dollars.

In the human composting process, a body is placed in a hermetically-sealed vault with organic materials like straw, alfalfa and wood chips, along with a natural enzyme to aid decomposition. After about seven weeks at a funeral home, the process yields about a cubic yard of organic soil.

But State Rep. Tom O’Dea, R-New Canaan, also an Environment Committee member, said he believes all 11 Republicans on the committee will vote against the bill. The group plans to hold a public hearing on the issue later this month.

“I just don’t see the push for this. I just do not believe we should be composting human bodies so that they can be fertilizer. It just doesn’t seem right to me,” O’Dea told CT Examiner on Tuesday. “Obviously, as a Catholic I am against it, and as a state representative I just don’t see the need for it.”

Regarding the environmental factor, O’Dea said, “There are so many other things that are polluting our world. You have so many other ways to reduce the carbon footprint.”

In a statement, a spokesman for the Diocese of Bridgeport reiterated comments made in May by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops expressed concern about human composting, saying, “The end result of the human composting process is also disconcerting, for there is nothing left but compost, nothing that one can point to and identify as remains of the body. … Like alkaline hydrolysis, human composting is not sufficiently respectful of the human body. In fact, the body is completely disintegrated.  There is nothing distinguishably left of the body to be placed in a casket or an urn and laid to rest in a sacred place where Christian faithful can visit for prayer and remembrance.”

If Palm’s measure passes the state legislature and is signed into law by Gov. Ned Lamont, Connecticut would be the seventh state to legalize human composting behind Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, New York and California.

Palm explained that her bill strictly outlines acceptable uses for the composted human remains, prohibiting their use in agriculture or commercial purposes. 

“You can still have a headstone and bury it as remains, you can sprinkle it in your garden and you can put them in the ocean,” among other uses, she said.

Palm noted that funeral homes with objections to human composting would not be forced to participate. 

State Rep. Andre Baker Jr., D-Bridgeport, who has owned a funeral home on Bridgeport’s east end for three decades, said he wants to hear from cemetery associations before supporting the measure. 

“I’m about offering what the consumer wants,” he said. “If we have to adjust to what the consumer wants, then we will.”

When he first opened his business, Baker said, about 25 percent of families wanted their deceased loved ones cremated; now, that figure has risen to about 70 percent. He believes part of the reason comes down to cost; cremation services typically cost between $5,500 and $6,500, while a traditional casket burial can reach upward of $15,000.

Robert Storace

Robert Storace is a veteran reporter with stints at New Britain Herald, the New Haven Register, the Connecticut Post, Hartford Business Journal and the Connecticut Law Tribune. Storace covers the State Capitol for CT Examiner. T: 203 437 5950