Since 2015, cremation has become the most popular method of burial, but lawmakers at the state Capitol are exploring whether terramation, or human composting, would be a more environmentally friendly method.
Rep. Amy Morrin-Bello, D-Wethersfield, who proposed the legislation said that it takes three hours to cremate a body and it releases almost 500 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For comparison, she said burning a gallon of gas takes 20 pounds of carbon dioxide.
“A green more natural burial is of interest,” Morrin-Bello told the Public Health Committee Wednesday.
Nicole Paquette, head of legislative affairs for the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association, said the group supports the legislation.
“The several-weeks long process, includes placement of unembalmed remains in a vessel with organic matter to speed the decomposition process. Natural and mechanical processes are used as part of a curing process, resulting in a soil, or mulch, of about one cubic yard,” Paquette told the committee.
The process, which was first performed in 2020, is legal in Washington, Colorado, Oregon, California, Vermont, and New York. Only three states, Washington, Colorado and Oregon are the only ones currently offering this type of burial, the other three states are still coming up with a process.
Morrin-Bello said she understands there are challenges to implementing this, but she said it’s something people want as an option.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health didn’t support or oppose the legislation, but it said it would have a fiscal impact because they don’t currently have regulations for this type of burial or the expertise on how to handle it.
Rep. Keith Denning, D-Wilton, asked about how the composted manner is disposed of and what if there are contaminants in the soil.
“The Department of Public Health will have to make some determinations on how and where the composting can end up,” Morrin-Bello said. “And there would be consideration for people who have had diseases or have had treatments, including chemotherapy.”
She said the families are not taking all of the composted material but are taking small volumes of it and using it to plant memorial gardens.
“Cremation lets off a lot of gasses into the atmosphere,” Morrin-Bello said. “There is more of a cost to it than cremation because funeral homes would have to have space for the body while this process takes place and it could take a few months for the composting of a body.”
Because of the time needed for the process it would cost more for a family to choose this type of burial, she explained.
“I think this could be a complementary service our existing funeral homes could offer,” Morrin-Bello said.
There’s another similar piece of legislation working its way through the Environment Committee. This is the first time the General Assembly has tackled the issue.