New Funerary Methods

Current project status

  • Initiation: Could include discussing scope and terms of reference with lead Government Department
  • Pre-consultation: Could include approaching interest groups and specialists, producing scoping and issues papers, finalising terms of project
  • Consultation: Likely to include consultation events and paper, making provisional proposals for comment
  • Policy development: Will include analysis of consultation responses. Could include further issues papers and consultation on draft Bill
  • Reported: Usually recommendations for law reform but can be advice to government, scoping report or other recommendations

New funerary methods are being developed in England and Wales and elsewhere, but there is currently no regulatory framework for their use.

The problem 

Burial and cremation are currently in use as funerary methods in England and Wales, but companies are also developing new funerary methods. These include: 

  • alkaline hydrolysis, which uses water and alkaline chemicals, and heat, to break down a body into a sterile liquid and bone fragments; and 
  • human composting, which involves keeping a body in a controlled environment so that remains are broken down into soil much more quickly than in a burial.  

Both of these methods are in use in other jurisdictions, particularly in the US. At the time of our Thirteenth Programme of Law Reform, human composting was still in development. New methods which are now at the concept stage may become a reality in future years.  

In England and Wales, new funerary methods are currently unregulated, other than by laws which apply more generally such as environmental and planning law. Stakeholders have told us that they want a regulatory framework so that they can operate securely and conscientiously, unlock investment, and offer greater consumer choice. 


The project 

The project will consider what the law should require of new methods in order to regulate them, factoring in concerns such as the dignity of the dead, environmental and public health concerns. It will consider what an appropriate regulatory framework might look like, how that might interact with death registration, and the rules in relation to remains from new methods.  

The project commenced at the beginning of 2024 and will run until spring 2026, concluding with the publication of a report and draft Bill.

Project details

Area of law

Public law


Professor Alison Young