This legislation establishes a program to allow for natural organic reduction as an alternative to burial or cremation. The options for processing human remains after death are limited to burial or cremation in New York State, which are both resource intensive and have high environmental impacts. Burials often involve the embalming process, by which toxic chemicals such as formaldehyde are eventually released into the soil and can pollute groundwater. Additionally, the construction of a casket is resource intensive. In the United States 30 million feet of casket wood, 90,000 tons of steel, and 1.6 million tons of concrete are used to make caskets each year.
Cremation is not much better for the environment as 28 gallons of fuel are required for a single cremation, releasing 540 pounds of carbon dioxide into the air, along with other dangerous chemicals like monoxide and mercury. Natural organic reduction provides an after death option that is safe, more natural and better for our air and water supplies. Natural organic reduction is a process that converts human remains into soil through natural decomposition. Human remains are placed in a vessel along with wood chips, alfalfa and straw which decompose over a period of weeks. Natural organic reduction is the most environmentally friendly after death option, estimated to save a metric ton of carbon dioxide when chosen over cremation or burial. Natural organic reduction became legal in Washington state in 2019, and New Yorkers should also have the option to choose a more natural after death option.
This legislation amends Article 15 of the not-for profit corporation law to allow for the option of natural organic reduction after death. Natural organic reduction facilities would be required to comply with the same standards as crematories.