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Washington Is Now the First State to Legalize Composting of Human Remains

3 min read
Washington Legalize Composting of Human Remains

Washington law now allows residents to do something completely unique with the dead bodies of their loved ones, and it’s completely organic. If you die in Washington, there is a new option regarding your burial. Check it out in our article.

Washington Leads the Way to a New Era of Human Composting

The state of Washington has just become the first in the U.S. to legally allow an environmentally-friendly alternative to human burials and other methods of final disposition.

On May 21, 2019, a new bill, titled SB 5001, was signed by Governor Jay Inslee. The new human composting law will be valid from May 2020.

Essentially, it legalizes human composting, which is a new method for the disposal of dead bodies. According to reports, it’s a cost-effective and eco-friendly procedure. Most likely, Washington is not only the first to allow it in the U.S. but in the entire world.

In this state, the only legal options so far were cremations or burials. Furthermore, the primary legislation which applied to the final disposition methods has not been changed for a hundred years. But from 2020, human compositing, or “natural organic reduction,” will provide another option.

Ultimately, the process will convert corpses into soil much quicker compared to traditional burial practices.

One with the Earth

The process takes a few weeks and involves microbial activity and is similar to alkaline hydrolysis, or “liquid cremation,” that 19 states already allow.

Namely, bodies are placed in a small chamber containing organic matter like straws and wood chips. Reports claim that the procedure takes around 30 or more days. During those few weeks, the corpses will slowly degrade and turn into soil packed with nutrients. Then, the remains will be given back to the family of the deceased.

Also, human compositing will only be allowed by licensed facilities, and the new laws are giving birth to new companies like Recompose.

Senator Jamie Pedersen, a sponsor of the bill, claimed that it was time to use new technologies to create environmental ways of human burials.

Pedersen also stated that individuals should have more rights regarding the disposal of their bodies. The Catholic Church, however, was a strong opposer of the bill, claiming that the law goes against the doctrine and disrespects the human body.

Human Composting

Katrina Spade, CEO of Recompose, stated that their facility would allow the families of the deceased persons to choose what they wish to do with the remains.

Previously, the method was tested by a research team at Washington State University. Namely, bodies were donated by six individuals, and all the procedures proved to be successful. Spade stated that human composting is incredibly effective and entirely safe.

A Solid Ground for Why It Matters

The procedure at the state of Washington involved the use of alfalfa and microbes to break down flesh and bone. In the experiments, each body created approximately one cubic yard of soil.

Compared to traditional burials that can cost up to $25,000 and cremations (up to $6,000), human composting will be cheaper. The CEO of Recompose claimed that the procedure would cost around $5,500. According to her estimates, the company will have up to 25 containers by the end of 2020.

Additionally, Leslie Christian, Integrated Capital Specialist and environmental advocate from Seattle, claims that human composting could provide an effective solution. Christian is a strong supporter of the bill. Her brother, for example, wants his family to plant tomatoes using his soil.

Down to Earth

In comparison, it takes much longer for a body to decompose after a traditional burial. Additionally, cremations can contribute to the production of greenhouse gasses. Some researchers have concluded that the creation of just one body wastes as much energy as one American does in their household for a whole month. Additionally, for some time, farmers have performed similar procedures to compost livestock remains.

Human composting does not use chemicals, fossil fuels, or coffins. CEO of Recompose claimed that it could be a great way to dispose of a loved one’s remains and turn them into a part of the Earth itself. The soil can be used to plant your loved one in your garden or grow trees.

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