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Natural Organic Reduction aka Body Composting

On Behalf of | Jul 21, 2023 | Firm News

A few years from now, in January 2027, a new law will go into effect in California, making it the fifth state to approve body composting.  This process is referred to as Natural Organic Reduction (NOR) and is less harmful than cremation or burial to the environment. Burial can leak chemicals into the soil and cremation burns fossil fuels. Organic burial will not contribute to carbon emissions and therefore makes it a very appealing option for people that want to take into consideration the environmental impact of the final disposition of their body.

Assembly Bill 351, drafted by assembly member Cristina Garci, provides information on the process that includes placing the body in individual vessels.  Then using or fostering the decomposition of the body into nutrient-dense soil.  The soil is then returned to families or donated to land conservation. The Cemetery and Funeral Act provides for the licensure and regulation of cemeteries, crematoria, hydrolysis facilities, cremated remains disposers, funeral establishments, and their personnel by the Cemetery and Funeral Bureau within the Department of Consumer Affairs. This bill requires the bureau to license and regulate reduction facilities and would enact requirements that will likely be similar to regulations that apply to crematories.

The Department of Consumer Affairs, Cemetery & Funeral Bureau has a Cremated Remains Disposer Booklet, that will likely need to be updated to provide for disposition of the composted material.  The booklet provides information on how to lawfully scatter cremated remains in the State of California.  Cremated remains may be disposed of as provided below.

  • Cremated Remains Disposer Booklet: Complying with California Law (
    • The cremated remains disposer must:
      • Dispose of cremated remains within 60 days of the time the remains are received unless the cremated remains disposer presents a written, signed reason for the delay to the person(s) with the right to control the disposition of the remains (BPC § 7672.6(a)(1)).
      • Scatter the cremated remains from individual containers unless scattering at sea utilizing a scattering urn (HSC § 7117.1). Except with the express written permission of the person with the right to control the disposition of the remains, the law prohibits commingling cremated remains before scattering (HSC § 7054.7(a)(2)).
      • File the disposition permit with the local registrar of births and deaths within 10 calendar days of scattering (HSC §103060). Within 30 days of scattering, the cremated remains disposer must provide a photocopy of the fully completed disposition permit to the person with the right to control the disposition of the remains (BPC § 7672.5).
    • Scattering at Sea:
      • Cremated remains must be removed from their container before the remains are scattered at sea (HSC § 7117(a)) unless a scattering urn (closed container containing cremated remains that will dissolve and release its contents within 4 hours of being placed at sea) is used, in which case the cremated remains may be transferred from their durable container into the scattering urn no more than seven days before scattering the cremated remains at sea from a boat (HSC § 7117.1).
      • Scattering at sea cannot take place within 500 yards of the shoreline, and includes the inland navigable waters of the state. Scattering at sea does not include lakes and streams, nor does it include scattering from a bridge or pier (HSC § 7117(c)).
    • Scattering in other areas of the State:
      • Cremated remains may be scattered in areas where no local prohibition exists, provided that written permission to scatter is obtained from the property owner or governing agency. State or local agencies may restrict or prohibit such scattering (HSC § 7116).
      • When cremated remains are lawfully scattered in areas other than at sea, they must be removed from their container and not be distinguishable to the public (HSC § 7116)

There are new and interesting options for the disposition of your body. Finding the right option that works for you and your family is all part of the process, and there are a variety of places that can assist you with your pre-planning.