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'Natural' burials idea is likely dead in CT legislature for now

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 06: Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, poses with a Compost Me button in front of Recompose, a green funeral home specializing in human composting, also known as natural organic reduction, terramation, or recomposition at Recompose Seattle on October 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.
Mat Hayward
/
Getty Images North America
Katrina Spade, founder and CEO of Recompose, poses with a Compost Me button in front of Recompose, a green funeral home specializing in human composting, also known as natural organic reduction, terramation, or recomposition at Recompose Seattle on October 06, 2022 in Seattle, Washington.

A conversation Rep. Keith Denning, D-Wilton, had with his wife about what happens when they die has helped to inspire Connecticut lawmakers to think about the burial options available to residents after death.

“We had already given up the idea of being buried in a casket after embalming,” Denning said recently on Connecticut Public Radio’s The Wheelhouse.

“We didn’t like the idea of having toxic chemicals buried in the ground,” he said.

Denning and his wife hope for an eco-friendly alternative called “natural organic reduction.” It’s also known as human composting. A process of rapid decomposition transforms the body into a cubic yard of soil. The soil is then planted without a grave marker.

“I know that nothing lasts forever,” Denning said. “Even the graves of people who were buried early in our country, the gravestones have been moved, they’ve worn down, they’ve been buried, they’ve fallen over.

“So, when I talk with people about it, I explain to them that [this] is the much more organic, restorative process that brings us back home from where we came.”

But while the human composting legislation advanced out of the state legislature’s Environment Committee on March 9, the measure will likely waste away before it gets a full vote in the General Assembly this legislative session.

“I don’t know if we are ready,” said Joe Gresko, D-Stratford, who serves as co-chair of the state’s Environment Committee. “We are still working on it.”

Lawmakers are speaking with the Connecticut Funeral Directors Association to improve the proposal’s prospects. Lionel Lessard, association president, said that if legislation is enacted, the Connecticut Department of Public Health should inspect facilities performing natural organic reduction. He also wants the state Office of the Chief Medical Examiner to greenlight each arrangement.

“We understand families want this option,” Lessard said. “We’re not opposed to it. However, everything needs to be thought through before it’s approved.”

Gresko said it’s likely lawmakers will need multiple legislative sessions to fully support natural organic reduction.

Frankie Graziano is the host of 'The Wheelhouse,' focusing on how local and national politics impact the people of Connecticut.

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