This compost-mortem may be coming to a NYC funeral parlor near you

The ultimate in compost-mortem may soon be coming to a funeral home near you.

New York state Assembly member Amy Paulin (D-Westchester) and state Sen. Leroy Comrie (D-Queens), have co-sponsored a bill to legalize human composting as part of measures the state is putting in place to eliminate carbon emissions by 2050.

The bill is eligible to be taken up by the full Senate after it was voted out of committee Tuesday.

Should the bill become law, Washington state eco-friendly funeral service Return Home, which offers “human composting as a death care option” and says it’s gotten “tons of inquiries” from New Yorkers, may soon be able to make their last wishes come true.

“I’m passionately in favor of it,” said Ned Baldwin, 51, who owns Houseman Restaurant on Greenwich Street in Soho.

Baldwin said he plunked down $4,950 with Return Home to be composted — at a much later date.

State Sen. Leroy Comrie co-sponsored the bill.
Taidgh Barron/NY Post

The 60-day, chemical-free process involves putting a person’s remains in a “vessel” with organic material such as straw, alfalfa or sawdust. The box is sealed, attached to an HVAC system and the remains allowed to decompose. At the 30 day mark, the contents are screened for inorganic material and remaining bone is broken up and put back in. After another 30 days, the contents are returned to the family.

“The only two other legal options are to fill your body with chemicals and bury it or use a tremendous amount of fossil fuels to burn it,” he said. “I don’t think you have to be a terribly environmentally conscious person to think it’s the right thing to do.”

Return Home
Once a person’s remains are “composted” the company will deliver up to 400 pounds of soil to the deceased’s family.
Return Home

In addition to Washington state, Colorado and Oregon have legalized the process, known as “natural organic reduction.”

If four more states — Massachusetts, Illinois, California and New York — legalize the process, it should “take off as the world’s first truly earth-positive death care method, as burial and cremation options are environmentally unsustainable,” Return Home CEO Micah Truman told The Post.

To date, Return Home has serviced 50 families. Once a person’s remains are “composted” the company will deliver up to 400 pounds of soil — a mixture of organics and human remains in a three to one ratio — to the deceased’s family.

Assemblywoman Amy Paulin
Assemblywoman Amy Paulin also co-sponsored the bill.
AP Photo/Mike Groll

Half of the families take all the soil, the rest, just a portion, Truman noted.

The CEO said one family planted a tree break in front of their home in Washington state and a Hawaiian family plans to scatter the soil of their beloved 23-year-old daughter in their homeland. 

“End-of-life planning involves deeply personal decisions,” state Sen. Comrie emailed The Post, adding the law “would grant New Yorkers the opportunity to choose natural organic reduction as one possibility in a regulated framework” and that he wants to advance “the most thoughtful bill we can in this sensitive area.”

Comrie hopes the Senate and Assembly adopt the bill this legislative session.

Return Home
Return Home demonstrated how the process works in a TikTok video.
@returnhomenor/TikTok
Return Home
The TikTok featured a demonstration of the process.
@returnhomenor/TikTok

The New York State Catholic Conference is not dying for the bill to pass.

“Composting and fertilizing may be appropriate for vegetable clippings or eggshells, but not for our mortal remains,” said Dennis Poust, executive director of the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the state’s Catholic bishops in Albany.

Funeral directors are aware of human composting, but not so eager to openly discuss it.

“Whatever the law allows, we would do,” said one Staten Islander funeral director who has been in the business for 50 years and requested anonymity. “Personally, I think it’s horrific. Would I take my mother and do that to her? Never in a million years. I don’t think that’s the respectful thing to do. But if it’s legal, we [funeral directors] have to do it.”

Hilton Flores, 65, a retired photojournalist from the Island said he plans to be cremated, but would seriously consider human composting if it becomes legal in New York.

“After you are gone, what’s wrong with feeding nature?” Flores said. “I think it’s a great idea — count me in!”