Delaware Could Become The Eighth State To Allow Composting Of Human Waste If Gov. Carney Puts It Into Law


After getting final approval from the Delaware Senate, a bill that would let people compost their bodies in Delaware is now waiting on Gov. John Carney’s desk.

House Bill 162, which would allow human composting in the First State, passed with a vote of 37-2 on January 23. This was almost total support in the state House. After that, it had to wait for the Senate to review it until March 21, when it passed with a vote of 14 to 7.

What is House Bill 162?

Rep. Sean Lynn, a Democrat from Dover’s District 31, presented House Bill 162. Its goal is to make Delaware one of the more states that offer natural organic reduction, which is another name for human composting, as a way to bury people.

What is composting for people?

The most popular ways to get rid of human remains are burial or cremation. Human composting is an option because it lets the body break down in a “gentle, respectful process that accelerates the decomposition of human remains to the soil,” as stated in a bill summary on the website of the Delaware General Assembly.

Large containers hold human remains along with wood chips, straw, or other natural materials for about 30 days. During this time, warm air is mixed with the remains, and the organic materials are turned over several times. This causes the body to break down into dirt, which can then be given to the family of the person who died.

The bill plan says that natural organic reduction is better for the environment than cremation because it doesn’t use formaldehyde, puts carbon dioxide and mercury into the air, and needs only one-eighth as much energy.

There are limits on human composting the remains of people who had or are thought to have a virus or other health risk that the Delaware Division of Public Health says can’t be destroyed. This was added to HB 162 after it was passed. The bill also says that radioactively-implanted bodies or bodies of people who died in a radiological accident cannot be used for the practice.

Human composting is not a new idea

Lynn and the other bill supporters used the model set by the seven states that allow human composting to make sure that Delaware’s natural organic reduction would be as safe and effective as possible.

Haley Morris of Earth Funeral is part of the team in Delaware that is planning to allow human composting. She is a registered natural organic reduction provider in Washington State, which was the first state to allow human composting in 2019.

Morris told Delaware Online/The News Journal in the past that she thinks human composting will keep getting more attention across the country as more people think about how they can live more sustainably, even after they die.

“Everyone should be able to choose this,” she said. “It doesn’t have to be their only choice.” “I also think there’s growing interest, and maybe even movement, in the idea that you can return your body to the earth and do good things for the earth as your last act on Earth. I think this hits home for a lot of people.”

What will happen next with HB 162?

After passing in the Delaware House, Senate Health & Social Services Committee, and Senate, HB 162 is now ready for the governor to sign. It is on Carney’s desk.

After the bill is signed into law, state officials will have one year to come up with rules for human composting in Delaware.

If Carney signs it, Delaware will join Washington, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, California, New York, and Nevada as the eighth state in the country to allow human composting.

In 2019, Washington became the first state to allow people to recycle their own waste. Colorado and Oregon followed in 2021, Vermont and California in 2022, New York in 2023, and Nevada in January of this year.

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